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Active listening

Community Business Facilitators achieve sales in Nepal


Ms. Chintamani Singh was unemployed at the beginning of 2014. Although she had attended school through grade 10, fairly unusual for a woman in Nepal, her main activity was to raise her newborn son and manage the family finances, allocating the combined incomes of her husband and father-in-law, who were employed as laborers in the village. But she knew she could do more to increase the income of her household.

iDE Hero Nepal Key WASH Project

One of the goals of sanitation marketing is to help communities understand the effects of open defecation; this is accomplished through interactive activities and directed discussion.

A sales mission

Nepal is one of the poorest countries in South Asia and still has large gaps in sanitation coverage. Despite gradual improvements, only about 43 percent of the population has access to toilets, while more than half the population continues to defecate openly. Nepal has made significant investments in interventions in the past, but diarrhea remains the second largest killer of children under five.

Now in its second phase, the Nepal Sanitation Marketing Scale Up (SMSU) project, with support from Grand Challenges Canada, is building the market for toilets in rural households by developing the value chain, from sales to manufacturing to installation, to help reduce the 10,500 child deaths per year to zero.

Social selling

Chintamani signed up for training as a Community Business Facilitator (CBF) in August 2014. In collaboration with the Whitten and Roy Partnership, iDE coaches CBFs to become effective sales leaders who can address consumers’ problems first, rather than focusing on price points. For example, CBFs help consumers connect a history of family sickness to the likely source: water contaminated by poor sanitation. CBFs earn a commission for each toilet they sell.

With large number of Nepalis working as migrant laborers abroad, they are being exposed to habitual toilet use and at the same time are sending remittances home. This combination of exposure and resources mean that people are open to the message about improved sanitation that CBFs are bringing to communities.

In the beginning, Chintamani found that making sales was tough. She traveled from door to door in villages, giving the sales presentation that she learned from iDE. But she continued practicing her new skills, and her orders began increasing rapidly.

Following the initial round of CBF training, there was limited opportunity to practice group sales presentations due to restricted movement in rural areas during the monsoon months. SMSU used this period to build CBFs’ confidence and experience through one-on-one sales presentations. Starting in October, the CBFs began convening group sales and are now ramping up group sales presentations. With the one-on-one experience, CBFs became much more confident and effective in the group sales meetings. 

A Community Business Facilitator shows a picture of possible latrine shelter options to prospective latrine buyers.

The value proposition

Training CBFs is only the beginning. SMSU also strengthens the capacity of local businesses to supply latrines. And with our partner 17 Triggers, iDE is engaging in a social marketing campaign to encourage positive behavior changes.

Today, Chintamani is earning commissions of 10,000 Nepalese rupees (~$100) in an average month on her latrine sales, a significant increase in her family’s finances. With this newfound financial security, she is saving up for her child’s education. But just as meaningful as the financial benefit she enjoys, Chintamani is proud of her new employment and her role in helping people achieve better health and prosperity.

Performance results

As of May 2016, iDE had trained 317 CBFs under the two phases of SMSU, and they had reached over 78,000 households through group and direct sales presentations. In addition, 146 latrine ring producers had taken part in technical training, including the improved production process for the tiled slab, and many have begun producing and selling latrines as part of their businesses. A total of 23,812 latrines have been sold, with sales continuing to grow month over month.


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