The North East of Brazil is a region with considerable inequality between its inhabitants. Among the underprivileged populations, the most affected are women, especially single mothers. Most of them have no choice but to take informal, underpaid jobs. Danone Brazil decided to establish a new distribution channel in parallel, and raise awareness on balanced nutrition in the low-income districts of Brazil. To tackle the situation, Danone Brazil, with support from the Danone Ecosystem Fund and its local partners, the Brazilian NGO Aliança Empreendedora and its distributor Querokit, has co-created the “Kiteiras” project, setting up a micro-distribution network of door-to-door vendors.
The project offers them management, sales and administration courses and various life skills.
On top of providing formal jobs – mostly to women from the poorest communities of Nordeste – as micro-entrepreneurs, entitling them to social security, the project offers them management, sales and administration courses and various life skills. It also gives them access to micro-credit loans. The Kiteiras project thus increases their income so they can provide for their families’ needs. Another major innovation is the creation of a network of “Madrinhas” (godmothers in Portuguese): former Kiteiras saleswomen who recruit, train and manage new independent sales forces. Their entrepreneurial spirit is thus put to extremely good use in the community. At present, 320 « Kiteiras » sell Danone products, with the help of Ecosystem. The target for 2015 is 400 « Kiteiras ».
The creation of a new distribution channel by and within local communities, through a series of incremental steps
It has been possible to roll out this project thanks to an innovative approach. In line with the Danone Ecosystem Fund’s mission*, the Kiteiras project team decided to enter the community market rather than create a new one. Without this particular approach, through a series of incremental steps, it would not have been possible to create an interactive network.
My job is to manage a pioneering socio-economic project for Danone Brazil.
« My job is to manage a pioneering socio-economic project for Danone Brazil. In addition to project management activities like meeting with internal districts, the main challenge is to work hand in hand with partners with very different cultures, expertise and ways of working. Each partner involved has a key role to play in this co-created project. For example, Querokit structures the offer and delivers the product, while the NGO Aliança Empreendedora supports, trains and empowers the « Kiteiras » women. Another challenge is to keep them in line and motivated by a common goal: the project’s growth, and a shared vision that is both social and economic’, says Rafaella Biamante.
Through her experience, Rafaela has discovered a new side to her job and developed new skills. « I think the most important thing you learn is the flexible profile you have to develop to deal with different kinds of people, ranging from a saleswoman from a local community to the CEO of the Danone subsidiary when reporting results. In addition to the very broad scope of the work, you have to deal on a daily basis with extremely hands-on tasks, and at the same time take part in highly strategic meetings and discussions with your CEO on the whole distribution strategy, for example, » says Rafaela.
Everyone has become stronger both personally and professionally through this experience.
« Working with social goals and business is a great learning experience. We used to see things solely from a business point of view, looking at key performance indicators. Now we have learned how to see the project from a social point of view, assessing the social impact of our projects on local communities (creating and consolidating jobs, increasing incomes, and so on.). This was not easy to begin with for professionals trained in business, and for a company accustomed to rigorous results, » says Rafaela. « Everyone has become stronger both personally and professionally through this experience. »
After two years of intensive work, Rafaela is taking a short personal break before coming back to develop the Ecosystem mission in Brazil further.
Photos © Danone Ecosystem
*The Danone Ecosystem Fund is designed to strengthen and develop the activities of the partners who make up Danone’s ecosystem. These include farmers, suppliers, subcontractors, transport and logistics operators, distributors and territorial/local authorities.