From Pilot to Platform in Rural Pakistan: A Uniquely-Owned Company Scales to Change Lives

by: Ted London, Lisa Jones Christensen

Publication Date: February 3, 2023
Length: 22 pages
Product ID#: 3-202-248

Core Disciplines: Base of the Pyramid, International Business, Social Impact

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Teaching Note

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This case describes the journey that led to the creation of Saaf Sehatmand Services (SSS), a business founded by leaders from five consumer goods companies and the largest non-profit grassroots mobilization organization in Pakistan. SSS is a service company focused on distributing health, hygiene, and food products to low-income rural consumers. Its distribution model relies on local entrepreneurs (called Aapas) going door-to-door selling a basket of goods to other women in rural communities.

The case tracks the SSS founding story from the viewpoint of the Pakistani operations of Reckitt-Benckiser (Reckitt), one of the world’s largest FMCG companies. It examines the challenges faced by two new leaders in mid-2019 as they consider next steps to reach scale throughout Pakistan. These two leaders, Fahad Ashraf (chief executive at Reckitt Pakistan and chairman of the board of SSS) and Ayesha Janjua (head of marketing for English Biscuit Manufacturer and CEO of SSS), are focusing on developing a scalable business as opposed to launching another pilot project. They recognize that a “successful” pilot does not necessarily translate into an enterprise that can scale.

Teaching Objectives

After reading and discussing the material, students should:

  • Understand the opportunities and challenges inherent in creating a for-profit joint venture together with competitors and a large non-profit social mobilization agency—and in seeking to build a scalable distribution channel to reach rural, low-income markets.
  • Describe and discuss complex BoP business models and identify key interdependencies.
  • Prioritize issues associated with building a business to scale rather than as a pilot.
  • Understand different types of organizations focused on serving the BoP and how they create and deliver value collaboratively.
  • Analyze some of the constraints facing women in rural areas as income earners and consumers.