INNOVATIVE ONLINE AND OFFLINE E-COMMERCE IS IMPROVING THE LIVES OF WOMEN IN EMERGING MARKETS

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A pioneering e-commerce platform is helping women in East Africa access menstrual care, personal care and women’s health products. The platform is optimised to provide confidential access to products such as contraceptives and HIV self-test kits that are stigmatising to get in-person yet critical to access.

Founded in Rwanda in 2016, Kasha has since expanded into Kenya, and is disrupting the way that women access health products in emerging markets.

The company was created out of the frustration that technology innovations that could drive global social change were not reaching low-income countries where they could make a powerful difference in women’s lives, says Joanna Bichsel, the CEO and founder. “The research is clear: when a woman has the ability to take control of her destiny and make informed choices, there are positive ripple effects on her family, her community and her country. Women have unique needs that need to be recognised and celebrated. Women drive 70-80% of all consumer purchases, so it also makes great business sense to build a solution that focuses on women. Kasha Rwanda started at a time in the world where women’s access to health products, affordability for all and last mile delivery are important.”

Malyse Uwase, Health and Partnerships Director at Kasha, will be sharing the Kasha success story, insights and learnings with African supply chain professionals at the 2020 SAPICS Conference in June. She explains that Kasha is not just a website. “It reflects the importance of taking a trend like e-commerce and customising it to meet the needs of women in low-income countries. Through either smartphones or standard feature phones, women can order and pay for the products they need. Smartphone users can download an app and order through it; women with a feature phone can access a product menu on USSD or call a number that will direct them to a representative that will talk them through the product catalogue.

“Once a customer selects a product, they have a variety of shipping options: direct delivery by motorcycle for a small fee, free pick-up at designated pickup locations around the country, and free delivery by a Kasha agent in low-income communities. Customers also have various payment methods, including M-pesa or mobile money and cash on delivery. Regardless of the delivery method, the items are wrapped to ensure confidentiality. Kasha was built to be accessible to anyone who can even just borrow a basic phone,” Uwase stresses. “We have tried to understand the market, understand where people are and grow with it.”

HIV tests, pregnancy tests and contraceptives are among Kasha’s top selling products. “People feel uncomfortable going to stores in person to get these products. We need to innovate and provide a better customer experience, with a focus on confidentiality and affordability.”

Kasha’s direct delivery method of these items represents a radical departure from the way health supplies are usually distributed in the developing world. “Health products are generally delivered to clinics, but women often don’t want to ask the clinic for contraceptives and sexual health products due to the stigma around sexuality and family planning,” Uwase notes.

Kasha’s diverse product portfolio also includes menstrual care products, bath and body, beauty products and baby products.

Kasha’s founder’s dream of improving the lives of women in low-income countries remains integral to its strategy and operations. “Kasha is striving to increase access to contraceptives as a proven means of decreasing the maternal and neonatal death rate, decreasing poverty and decreasing HIV infection rates. Additionally, we also want to keep girls in school by enabling access to affordable menstrual care, which has been proven to decrease poverty and improve livelihoods. Kasha is also empowering low income women with paid employment through our agent model. This is driving economic development and prosperity for women, families and communities,” Uwase expands, adding that she is delighted to have the opportunity to highlight Kasha’s impact through the platform of the SAPICS Conference.

Now in its 42nd successful year, the annual SAPICS Conference is Africa’s leading knowledge sharing and networking event for supply chain professionals. Hosted by SAPICS, The Professional Body for Supply Chain Management, it takes place in Cape Town from 21 to 24 June 2020.

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