Zimbabwean social enterprise in last-mile distribution hub innovation

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By Zimbabwe Investor on January 5, 2017. No Comments

Tendai has been running an Imhanya franchise from a re-purposed shipping container (SmartPod) for the past one year. The end-of-life shipping container was converted into a retail store front by a Social Enterprise based in one of the most challenging political and economic markets on the planet; Harare, Zimbabwe.

Tendai used to earn $25 per month and was dependant on his family for accommodation and food. Today, Tendai earns over $425 per month, had sales of US$500,000 during 2016 and has lifted 350 other families above the poverty line.

Over the past 24 months Imhanya has been working on a modular Last Mile Distribution solution that can truly change the face of Africa. Shipping containers have a limited lifespan, Imhanya recycles them into SmartPods, in the process saving over 95% of the energy required to transform it back into reusable steel.

The sea faring box is transformed into a Last Mile Distribution Hub that houses a mini supermarket, a bank, a utility company and a warehouse all in one!! The brainchild of a franchising guru and modular building expert, Imhanya has turned into a successful impact entity producing Socially Franchised Businesses for Africa’s poor. The concept also takes entrepreneurs off of Africa’s streets and into dignified structures.

The Business Model is disruptive and is about to change the last mile distribution of critical and essential products and services. Imhanya shares its profits with its participants, it sells products to other micro-entrepreneurs using software to track sales and inventory. Imhanya provides a legal, safe, hygienic and fully stocked retail outlet to a franchisee.  It is supplier agnostic, hence it can provide communities with the products and services required in a particular area. The units generate tax revenues for the country and solve the traditional street vending problems that plague African cities. The data generated by the unit can be shared with service providers and manufacturers to improve and create products for underserved communities.

The operations costs of the units are less than one tenth the costs of formal retail outlets. The units run off the grid and offer for sale and distribution everything from frozen meat products to lpg gas to cook the meat with. These pods beautify African towns and cities and are located near high traffic transit centres, high density housing estates or rural villages.

The pilot locations produce sales revenue in excess of US$1,300 per site, per day!! Based on these high volumes, the pods are able to sell products at low margins. This enables over 300 street vendors to purchase product from these pods conveniently and cost effectively on a daily basis. The pilot has improved the profits that micro entrepreneurs derive on a daily basis by 358% bringing their earnings above the $4 per day mark.

The pods are also able to offer financial inclusion to the street vendors that purchase from it. Tendai will start selling health insurance and funeral insurance from as little as 2c per day and will offer it free to his loyal customers!

The street vendors are offered storage space in a 40 foot shipping container located next to the distribution pod. The purchase and sales of the SmartPod customers are tracked using software which is shared with financial institutions which in turn use it as credit worthiness data for financial instruments. This storage space allows vendors to have an address for their goods. This is an important factor for fulfilling their KYC requirements for financial inclusion. The Pods also have a dignified banking area that provides access agency banking services, mobile money, remittances and micro finance facilities.

The Pod has been designed to have a state of the art, safe and regulated LPG distribution area. This provides affordable gas to under-served communities. The reliance on kerosene and firewood is an environmental nightmare and Imhanya is providing a sustainable alternative. These SmartPod’s are designed to for a rooftop Solar installation capable of generating 50kwh of energy. This micro-grid can power up 200 homes, irrigated farmland or cold chain facilities for horticulture and meat processing.  School children can study around the lit areas at night on desks that are used by street vendors to display and sell product on during the day.

The Smartpods are operated under a social franchise where disadvantaged franchisees are trained and provided with a tablet that connects to cloud based software to monitor sales and inventory. Imhanya is in negotiations with potential foundations,  MNO’s and ITC partners to offer free wifi services at these hubs.

Imhanya has been recognized by its efforts as a category finalist for the Not Impossible awards.

Not Impossible, in partnership with the United Nations Foundation, has named the six category finalists for the first annual Not Impossible Awards, which recognize and celebrate the people, companies, technology and transformational inventions that help bring positive change to the global community. The winner will be announced on January 5 during CES® 2017 in Las Vegas.

“These awards drew an incredibly strong and diverse group of organizations and innovators and we were truly inspired by the scope and creativity of the projects,” said Mick Ebeling, Founder and CEO of Not Impossible. “With projects ranging from remote online learning tools to literal and recyclable container stores, it’s truly amazing to see the impact technology can have on the lives of those in need and realize our potential to make a difference on a global level. These Not Impossible Awards are just a glimpse of what’s actually possible.”

Imhanya was the winner of the SuperReturns Africa Start Up Academy, at Cape Town in November 2016.

The pilot sites have transformed the lives of over 1,500 people and Imhanya is seeking partners and financing to scale up its concept across Africa. Imhanya is also seeking disruptive products and services that it can distribute at the last mile across Africa.

Contact : kpatel@imhanya.com  for further information.