23 May Pamoja life – Kenya’s #1 Environment Rafiki!
By Nimo Nyambura
Pamoja Life a BURN cookstove distributor; prides itself in being Kenya’s number one ‘Rafiki’ (swahili for friend) when it comes to environmental matters. The company, in line with the ban on the use of plastic bags in Kenya; launched a marketing campaign to give free eco-friendly shopping bags to customers who buy BURN’s jikokoa – an eco-friendly clean cookstove that cuts charcoal use by half, and emits 60 percent less smoke compared to an ordinary jiko.
“The bag promotion ties nicely into both BURN and Pamoja Life’s ideals when it comes to excess usage of plastic, litter and the idea of renewability said Katharine MacMahon, Pamoja Life Marketing Manager.
In fact; the company employs the ‘Rafiki’ model to sell clean energy products to communities in Kenya; as explained by Pamoja Life Ms.MacMahon and Candida Crasto in our Q & A interview.
Pamoja Life employs the ‘Rafiki’ model in it’s sales and marketing strategy,how has this helped improve the market expansion of your products?
Currently, we have over 100 ‘Rafikis’ in our team which is an expert sales team who work to bring Pamoja Life products to the local communities. Rafikis are hired within their own communities to be able to speak the local language and take advantage of their local network. Over 50% of our Rafiki sales force is women.
The ‘Rafiki’ model helps to promote and sell Pamoja Life products through the words and actions of people already using and satisfied with their jikos and solar lights. As a result, we have been able to extend distribution through this network to access smaller communities, and deeper levels of distribution.
In addition to those employed by Pamoja Life, we also work through our self-help group channel to provide group level entrepreneurship to self-selected agents. The agent is responsible for managing the group’s purchases and payments from Pamoja Life, and receives a financial incentive per product paid.
Pamoja Life customers can choose from a range of improved cookstoves in the market; what feedback do you get from customers who opt to buy the Jikokoa to other improved stoves?
Of all the jiko products that Pamoja Life has to offer, our highest selling cookstove is the Jikokoa from BURN. In addition to praising the advertised benefits of cost savings and charcoal reduction, end users are positive about the Jikokoa, particularly its shape and design. The Jikokoa also tends to sell better amongst smaller families who have lighter cooking requirements. End users also comment on the noticeable reduction in smoke and black markings on their sufurias and walls.
BURN Jikokoa offers after sales service, has this helped improve sales and build customer confidence?
Yes, giving warranties prove invaluable to ensuring the customer feels cared for despite any problems that might arise. Pamoja Life leverages the BURN warranty to encourage customer interaction, warranty registration, and overall customer satisfaction. BURN’s workshops across Kenya facilitate repairs, and provide the customer with confidence in their purchase.
BURN’s jiko promises a return on investment to customers within 2-3 months; to customers that buy the jiko on credit, do you find that they repay their loans before the installment period ends?
Indeed, the savings that BURN’s customers receive by reducing fuel costs match the savings of a Pamoja Life end user. We select products that provide sustainable benefits to our end-user including cost-savings, environmental improvements, and health savings. We offer credit through many sales channels to our customers, which include SACCO’s, FSA’s, Self Help Groups, and Corporate Check-Off programs.
What is the market reception to BURN’s newly launched Kuniokoa(wood cookstove)?
The reception for the Kuniokoa has been positive, particularly in association with the brand reputation of the Jikokoa. In our overall regional sales, we’ve seen a slowly increasing uptake of the product, and expect sales to increase as knowledge of the wood-burning jiko increases. The demand for Kuniokoa is high, especially in the rural regions, where access to firewood is free and accessible and it is this market we intend to focus on with the new Kuniokoa.
Partnerships are key, would you say that BURN Mfg is the right kind of business partner?
Absolutely, BURN has been an excellent business partner to Pamoja Life. BURN’s attention to marketing for their own products directly increases the demand we see within our customer networks. BURN has a bright team of innovative folks who have been receptive to feedback as well. It wasn’t long ago that we we’re requesting a bigger charcoal jiko due to our end user feedback, and we’re excited to see the rollout later this year. We’ve been delighted to creatively explore our partnership as we work side by side in tackling the same challenges.
Finally, what core values drive Pamoja Life’s business agenda in Kenya?
Pamoja Life is a unique distributer of BURN jikos. Our core values lie in our expertise of serving our customers and in turn our end users. We pride ourselves on our after-market support to the customer, through our Customer Care department and our broad network of sales agents, known as “Rafikis.” Once a customer has activated the Pamoja Life warranty (in collaboration with the manufacturers’ warranty) we schedule follow-up phone calls and visits to ensure satisfaction. Our team is equipped to handle all levels of customer service from technical issues to improving user understanding of their products. In addition, by connecting to our end users, we aim to become their one stop shop for household products in Kenya!