July 2009

Back in soviet times when the economy was fixated on heavy industrial goods consumer items reached their market by word of mouth and demand aggregated to prioritise supply below the radar of the State. Cuba with its vast underground of unlicensed products and services either pilfered from the State or, brought in from outside works in the same way. And like so many other informal markets all over the developing and emerging world, word-of-mouth or, to use a buzz word from the textbooks, viral marketing drives demand and pulls the product to market.

Cuban cars and the digital bazaar

revolico.com has transformed this en la calle (street based) market into a digital bazaar for a broad range of goods from housing to cars to classified ads. revolico, meaning disarray, has become one of the top 3 web sites in Cuba with over 1.5 million page views per month and over 100,000 ads placed in the last two months. (more…)

“Only when the villages prosper”, said Mahatma Gandhi, “can India truly prosper”. Amidst the bustle of the big cities and the drive to transform the Young Republic of India into a global superpower it is easy to forget the villages role in the growth narrative.  And yet, the world’s largest democracy cannot ignore the needs of those vital voters who live in the 500,000 villages working the land or, marooned in lives on less than a $2 a day. These are the roots of “inclusive growth”.

Back in the 1970’s Ramachandran, an entrepreneur from Chennai, set up the NAESEY (New Era Association of educated Self-Employed Youth) Project as a Charitable Foundation aimed at offering training on basic skills for the youth in the villages of Tamil Nadu, Southern India. Ramachandran is the Chancellor of AMET University, India’s first Maritime University, and the funding for NAESEY is generated from profits from his various business ventures. So far, over 150,000 have benefited from this initiative; many of them on three month training courses geared to increase skills capacity in rural areas, generate sustainable small business ventures and promote self esteem.

As recent posts illustrate, Transformational Logistics is looking for ideas all along the supply chain to improve connectivity between rural areas and, wider markets. Working with T L sponsors Archomai and the support of Ramachandran, Dr Graham Hamilton of York St John University flew to Tamil Nadu with colleagues to study village realities through the eyes of the NAESEY project.

Dr Hamilton visiting a NEASEY project brick production site

Dr Graham Hamilton visiting a NEASEY project brick production site in Tamil Nadu

Dr Hamilton and his team lived and travelled amongst the villages of Tamil Nadu where NAESEY is active. The scheme works from 58 centres across Tamil Nadu offering free industrial training on core skills such as computers; craft skills such as tailoring and embroidery and, much needed skills on radio, tv and mobile phone mechanisms. NAESEY offers free training for up to three months and structures courses in learning centres set up to serve and increase the skills capacity of local villagers. Other projects are on the go from mushroom cultivation to brick kilns .

Dr Hamilton and his team travelled the villages with the hugely enthusiastic and committed Vasu, the Coordinator of the NAESEY Programme. They ate, slept and worked alongside the trainers and had open access to trainees on courses from embroidery to computers.  

With Vasu in a Tamil Nadu village

With Vasu in a Tamil Nadu village


NEASEY pays particular attention to training for women. (more…)

Years back I asked my Father for a bike and, in a homily that introduced the idea of the Saturday job, he told me that they didn’t grow on trees. They do now. On the outskirts of Lusaka in Zambia next years crop of bicycles is being watered by Benjamin Banda: “we planted this bamboo last year and the stems are taller than me. When it is ready, we will cut it and cure it and then, turn it into frames.”

Introducing the Bamboo Zambike

Introducing the Bamboo Zambike


The label on the sweater says, “Made in Hong Kong” but the yarn is from Korea; it is woven and dyed in Taiwan; then, cut, sewn and assembled in Thailand and the zippers and buttons are from a Japanese factory located near Jilin, China. Then, it is finished packed and inspected in Hong Kong to be sold in a store in Hull. The steps are generic and the locations can vary – especially as a race to the bottom for lowest cost producers generates footloose players with no sense of how this can  disrupt communities and even wreck their own corporate long term profitability.

Look at this another way. This is a classic end-to-end supply chain featuring consumers in a listed up-market chain on the High Street at one end of the spectrum and a sewing machine paid for by money borrowed from loan sharks at the other. Transformational logistics seeks to explore the relationships in this  story and explore ways in which the value chain can generate inclusive and sustainable growth. (more…)