After 4 days and a lot of walking, I’ve completed the village interviews. I still plan to conduct several urban interviews in Kitale and Nairobi, but the answers from the villagers were consistent enough that I feel satisfied in drawing some conclusions.
The first key finding is that all the points I listed back in May 6th in the “Village Interviews – Day 2” post have consistently held up across the remaining interviews.
Here are some of the most important conclusions from the village interviews:
1. People usually treat their water out of a direct feat of typhoid, either because they personally, their family, or their neighbors recently contracted the disease. Just the general risk of getting sick is often not enough of a factor to make people look into treating water on their own. In most cases, the decision to either boil or use chlorine was based on the recommendation of a doctor, so marketing to the health offices and regional doctors will be critical for mass adoption. A public awareness campaign to teach people that clear water doesn’t mean clean water might help to get some new people to treat their water, but it won’t convert everyone overnight. Another effective strategy may be to meet monthly with local health offices to see which villages are experiencing outbreaks of typhoid and then sending in a sales representative to target households in those areas. That way we can reach people when they’re most concerned and hopefully prevent new cases of typhoid from occurring. Group presentations in those areas would also be a good idea.
2. Most people don’t consider new alternatives to water treatment, but are open to considering them once they hear about them. Along those same lines, most people are operating under the false assumption that water treatment is prohibitively expensive. The looks of shock, surprise, and glee that I saw during several interviews when I told people about the price of WaterGuard would be hard to fake. In many cases people are paying five to ten times more for firewood than they would for WaterGuard or a filter, but assumed that boiling is the cheapest method. As such, ongoing marketing including roadside signs, fliers, market demonstrations, and village presentations at churches and community groups will all be valuable in raising public awareness of the filters. I do believe that once people are made aware of the long term cost effectiveness compared to boiling or contracting typhoid, many people will buy the filters.
3. Numerous distribution channels will also be key to the successful adoption of filters. Several shops have already agreed to sell the filters in installments, which is absolutely critical to making the filters affordable to the poorest Kenyans. Even the people who probably could pay all at once still strongly preferred paying in installments.
Selling the filters to community groups also has a lot of promise. These groups are very common in the villages, and are often based around financial services like savings and lending. These groups could start what is known as a “merry-go-round” specifically for filters, where everyone in the group contributes enough so they could buy one filter. They then repeat that process every 2-4 weeks until everyone in the group has a filter. The other way to leverage these groups is simply to sell them to the group, possibly on credit, and then the group can sell to individual members on their own terms. Selling to the groups greatly reduces default risk, as there is high social pressure to repay and in some cases the groups may agree to joint liability.
The third potential channel that has been discussed is a network of commission-based sales representatives that could travel through the villages selling the filters. The obvious benefits here are that it lets us provide more education directly to the customers and it increases local employment.
4. My kiosk model was not well received at all in the villages. I’m not at all upset by this news, as I learned right away not to waste any resources on developing the model for rural areas. It will be interesting to see the reaction of additional households in urban areas.
I hope you enjoyed reading the findings from the village interviews. I’ll post the findings from the urban interviews in the coming days. I’ll also be posting some pictures of draft marketing collateral like signs and brochures in the near future as well.