Cows!

We are big fans of developing business strategies from empirical data. This can be a bit challenging when working in rural Kenya with what are typically painfully inconsistent data sources. Nevertheless we’ve managed to have some success.

Each time we make a sale we collect information from our new customer – simple things like crops grown, livestock owned, farm size, family size, etc. One thing we found is that our customers are three times as likely to own a cow as the average farmer in the areas where we work.

In case you were wondering, there is very little that owning a cow will do to improve a farmer’s ability to use our kiln.

What cow ownership does indicate, however, is a commitment to farming. At about 25,000ksh (a little over $300) a cow can cost a family five months of average expenses in one fell swoop.  Its milk output can more than cover this cost over time, but cow ownership still requires two important character traits:

  1. Willingness to make significant investments in farming capital that pay back over time
  2. Above average risk tolerance

Both of these traits are necessary of Rutuba Kiln owners as well. The value of the kiln is found over time in both yield improvements and input reductions – benefits typically not realized until at least three months to a year out. For a cash-strapped small hold farmer this is a risky proposition, but one that can appear less and less risky as more and more people are having positive experiences with this new technology.

We decided to start working with the Ministry of Livestock in an attempt to turn this interesting data in to results, and it worked.  In one case, we were holding a demonstration at a farmer’s home. During the demonstration a calf was born. The host liked the demo – and the kiln – so much that she named the calf “re:char” as a thank you. She also bought a kiln.

Through collaboration with the Ministry we have been able to access about 70 dairy farmer groups within the greater Bungoma area. After having demonstrated to about a half dozen of these groups we realized that our conversion rate had just about doubled compared to our typical demonstrations. We are now committing a greater number of our Sales Representatives to demonstrating for these groups to increase sales efficiency and kiln adoption.

Through data-driven strategies like this we will be quadrupling our sales coverage over the course of the next three months, efficiently identifying the early adopters who are leading the black revolution in western Kenya.

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