Student Action Research Assistant Report

January 15–21, 2017

UNH student Ilona Drew interviewing a Jibu franchisee

On Sunday, January 15th, UNH Master’s in Public Policy student Ilona Drew boarded a plane to visit Jibu on the ground in Kigali, Rwanda. She was able to see operations on the ground, speak with Jibu Corporate staff, franchise and microfranchise owners, staff, and customers, and get updates on Jibu’s progress with the critical issues identified at the Social Sector Initiative Roundtable conference.

Critical Issue #1: Franchisee Selection Criteria/ Critical Issue #2: Franchisee Development

One of the major issues that Mark, Jibu Uganda Country Director, identified was the need to develop their franchisee selection process. Ilona noticed that the Rwanda market differed from the Uganda market, so she spoke with Mark in Uganda in addition to reporting her findings in Rwanda.

Mark discussed their progress on developing criteria for franchisee selection. Specifically, they are looking for individuals who can demonstrate some experience managing others (if only 1–2 people); local market knowledge and/or local marketing experience; financial liquidity preferably upwards of $3,000 USD; mission alignment indicators, such as reaching 70% of the population within the store’s local community; and receiving recommendations from an existing Jibu franchisee. Additionally, they are in the process of developing a referral bonus structure for both employees and franchisees, in hopes of increasing the frequency and quality of personal recommendations.

Presently, they are selecting new franchise owners from their existing pools of well-performing microfranchisees; looking for a track record of achieving specific liters sold per day/week/month for three consecutive months. This selection method is wholeheartedly supported by Peter, Jibu Mentor, and has proven quite successful in the Rwanda market. While Peter had planned to provide questionnaires for employee assessments, this has not yet been implemented. Recent hire Kelli Schindelegger will be responsible for developing and conducting regionally-appropriate trainings for Jibu staff and the franchise network. Kelli recently graduated from the IFA’s Certified Franchise Executive program, and will continue to utilize her contacts with the IFA, other industry experts, and East Africa leadership to help with the development of these trainings.

To continue to address the concept of franchisee selection and development, Mark shared the Area Master Franchisee (AMF) business model. For Jibu, this role describes an individual or partnership of individuals who own the rights to develop and operate Jibu stores in an assigned territory. With this model, the AMF identifies, vets, and signs on new franchise partners within their territory, with the support and training of Jibu Corporate. This model allows for increased autonomy within the franchise region, while still adhering to the metrics of success laid out by Jibu Corporate. This model is being piloted and yet to be launched

Within both Critical Issue #1 and #2 remains the evolving process of defining who exactly is Jibu’s ideal franchise owner? They are constantly balancing the mission of lifting people out of poverty, with the need for the franchises to run successfully, and be aligned with the business model. They are not necessarily looking to teach people how to run a business from scratch, but they are dedicated to provide opportunities to entrepreneurs that would not normally have them.

A Jibu water shop in Kigali, Rwanda

When taking on more impoverished, less experienced franchise owners, Jibu runs a greater risk, as they cover the store build-out and provide some additional credit at the onset where neededbottle allowance at 100%, for the first three months of operations. They have identified that some less financially stable owners exhibit a lack of discipline in cash flow, jeopardizing their store’s inventory and their ability to pay their Franchise Network Fee (formerly the “Only-One Fee”).

While not all low-income potential owners are well-suited to become Jibu franchisees, Jibu Corporate has developed relationships with organizations such as Kiva, SPRING, and USAID, as well as individual donors, to help supplement the initial financial standing of their franchisees. When Ilona was in Kigali, she spoke directly with a woman who was a beneficiary of the SPRING girls program. This woman, Beliz, was provided the training and funding just out of high school to become a successful microfranchisee. She is now managing a Jibu store, and with her training, funding, and hands-on sales and management experience, she has the potential to be able to work her way up to franchise owner at some point and run her own business. 
 
 One of the big issues that Mark previously discussed was the need to cultivate a sales culture in Uganda and to manage franchise owners’ expectations, in relative terms of time and energy investment and sales. To aid in franchisee development, Jibu has hired an in-house sales consultant to spend a month in the field at every new franchise to ensure proper training and manage sales expectations. Jibu has continued with the sharing of best practices at their monthly franchise meetings. Additionally, Ilona observed in the Kigali market that franchise owners belonged to a WhatsApp group that allowed them to ask questions and share information through text message in real time.

Critical Issue #3 & #4: Expansion

Kigali skyline view

While the Uganda market may not be quite ready to expand much outside of Kampala, Jibu Rwanda is planning to launch in second tier cities during the 2017 calendar year. Because, as suggested at the SSFI Roundtable, Jibu is not looking to change their current business model significantly, they are only exploring areas that can support a population of 28–30K per Jibu store location. Even with this stipulation, they are critically examining the purchasing power in these areas, and researching if their product offerings (type of water receptacles) would need to be regionalized.

Many of the franchisees and customers that Ilona spoke with in Kigali were painfully aware of the needs of their rural counterparts. Without understanding internal and practical constraints Jibu faced, they felt from the outside that the Jibu brand was well positioned to reach people further and further out of the city. While rural expansion is not currently on the table at this moment, there is a possibility of developing future relationships with NGOs to reach less populous areas.

As the new Vice President of International Franchise Development, Kelli will be responsible for developing a dashboard that displays store growth and progress in new markets, for international growth and expansion. As identified in the SSFI Roundtable Accelerator, expansion comes with the increased need for formalized and optimized documentation and policies. Jibu has been making great headway on this aspect, having consulted a training expert from the US Department of Defense. This expert will help develop a strategic training plan for Jibu Corporate, to be finalized by the second quarter of 2017 and implemented in the second half of the year. This launch will include a Learning Management System that will operate as an integrated source of information regarding training, impact, as well as interactive staff and franchisee portals. Jibu has identified some key data points for both new and emerging markets, and using data-driven metrics to support their decision making and facilitate their expansion and training initiatives.

Media Muvuna one of the first Jibu franchisees in Rwanda

Moving Forward:

During her time in Kigali, Ilona gained amazing insight into the workings of both the Rwanda and Uganda markets, and captured some great personal stories of the lives touched by Jibu’s mission. There is also a great deal of progress being made at the corporate level on the major critical issues we have identified. It will be exciting to catch up with both Mark and Peter and follow up as these developments unfold!

Read the previous Jibu Blog post here
Read the next Jibu Blog post here

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