Livelihood programmes typically focus on manufacturing skills, credit linkages and resource availability. Participants are not trained to think about markets until they are ready to sell. When production precedes marketing, they may be confronted with inadequate demand resulting in wasted effort, resources, perhaps even mounting debt. Without adequate market orientation, poor entrepreneurs lack the wherewithal to switch to more profitable enterprises when markets fail.
Our experience indicates that the survival rate of micro-enterprises increases significantly when entrepreneurs are market oriented from the outset. In 2004, after several attempts, we introduced a participatory training model called Market Oriented Value Enhancement (MOVE). Originally developed for landless, illiterate rural women, MOVE is now recognised as a practical, profitable and very low risk approach to creating sustainable market niches. Over the years it has been replicated and adapted for poor youth, quarry workers, beedi workers, sexual minorities and women with HIV/AIDS.
MOVE has 255 successful businesses across West Bengal and Karnataka to its credit so far.
Download an independent evaluation of BPF's MOVE pilot project in Amta-I Block, Howrah, West Bengal, by Dr Ashok Sircar here.
Download an independent evaluation of BPF's MOVE project by Carla Annick Barlagne here.
Download an internal impact assessment of BPF's MOVE model here
MOVE emphasises market knowledge - What does my customer want? How can I deliver it? - as a pre-condition for investment. Training in its 12 modules involves motivation, market visits and surveys, and nurturing businesses until they are firmly established. The importance of the customer is continually emphasised. A typical batch of 25-30 participants can start businesses between four and six months into training.
Our Participatory Market Appraisal (PMA) tool enables trainees to conduct market research independently without having to rely on external expertise. Using PMA, they create visual surveys to understand market size and potential profits.
They acquire an understanding of market dynamics, such as the basics of buying and selling, identifying profitable business niches through market visits, building customer relations and adding value - large scale industries may be able to produce more at a cheaper price, but small entrepreneurs, by virtue of their direct access to customers, can provide customised products at the doorstep and meet a myriad of needs in ways that the former cannot.
After researching products with the highest chance of success in their market, they begin retailing or small scale production and sample selling. They continue receiving support while they gradually upscale and capture the market. After a few sales cycles they solicit customer feedback and fine-tune their products accordingly
The trainees finally devise a marketing strategy and business plan that incorporates a vision for future expansion. It is only at this stage that they are deemed capable of entering the market, linking to banks and continue adapting successfully to changing market conditions. This creates the lowest risk pathway for the asset-less poor to start businesses and see quick returns.