BIF is embarking on a global expansion to its work, to provide support to companies developing innovative products and services that benefit low-income people.
So far, like most market systems programmes, BIF has taken a ‘country-led’ approach. Having identified target countries, BIF then intervenes in markets which meet the core criteria of:
- relevance to the poor
- market growth and opportunity for the poor
- feasibility of BIF engagement
- alignment with development effort
A new, company-led approach
The global expansion will take a new ‘company-led' approach. BIF will seek to answer the same questions about a market, but will select the markets to investigate based on a new entry point: companies that are innovating.
The BIF team is interested in talking to companies with the following characteristics:
- Multi-national companies, large regional or very large local companies (not SMEs or start ups) that have significant reach to low-income consumers or producers
- Seeking to operate in a DFID priority country (in particular Afghanistan, Bangladesh, DRC, Ethiopia, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe) in ways which will benefit the poor but it is impeded from doing so by the presence of market failures
- At or close to piloting new approaches (although not those at the first stages of scoping), or expanding existing ones
- Ideally in a growing market sector where there is significant value addition (so, for example, simple production of agricultural produce would not qualify, but food processing would)
The inclusive business initiative that the company is pursuing should be based on the company’s core business and intended to be for-profit, so not a purely philanthropic venture with no connection to the company’s commercial activities. The company may be looking to expand its reach to include low-income consumers of its products, suppliers into its supply chain, micro-entrepreneurs that are in its value chain, or employees that are in its supply chain.
What BIF will offer companies
Initially the BIF team would like to find out more about companies' ideas or innovations and whether they would be interested in collaborating in a rapid market assessment from a market systems perspective. This helps the companies to understand aspects of a market system that are not part of their normal commercial appraisal, and helps BIF to decide whether the proposed markets meet its criteria for intervention.
Where BIF and a company agree to work together beyond the initial rapid market assessment, BIF might be able to help a company to:
- understand whether a proposed new product or service will benefit the poor, and to what extent
- design a pro-poor business model
- find non-traditional partners
- reduce the risk of piloting a new product or service by helping to identify and manage risks or sharing some of the costs
- address wider market failures impeding the sector, for example, in tackling regulatory barriers, supporting the development of more efficient local suppliers or stimulating consumer demand.
The above list is not exhaustive - BIF is keen to develop collaborative relationships with companies in order to fully understand their needs as well as the wider market system.