Mercy Corps' market assessments in Indonesia and the Middle East show that SGBs have desire to leverage the Web to reach new customers, and need easy-to-use tools and customer support to tailor websites and marketing campaigns to their needs. Mercy Corps, in partnership with the eBay Foundation, Thought Works, and other donors commits to launch Custom-Clouds (C2), a for-profit social enterprise offering SGBs affordable mobile Web marketing services and client support, in order to help them reach new customers, increase sales, improve business processes, and ultimately create new developing world jobs. C2 will leverage an on-the-ground sales and client support force that, at the time of sale, will gather relevant business information and connect the business owner with the support center to get the Website online within a few hours. For an affordable base rate of about $10/month, C2 clients will be able to update their site at any time, customize online marketing, and add additional business services.
C2 will operate independently of Mercy Corps, but in alignment with Mercy Corps' social shared value mission. C2 will first launch in Indonesia, which ranks highest amongst developing countries for mobile penetration. C2 aims to reach 10,000 SGBs in the first two years and break even in Indonesia within a year. A Mercy Corps sales test in Indonesia resulted in 24 percent of business owners 'buying' mock mobile website and service packages emulating the after the C2 model, indicating significant demand. After C2 has fine-tuned its operational models in Indonesia, it aims to expand to as many as 11 other developing countries with the ultimate goal of reaching 300,000 SGBs and creating one million developing world jobs by 2018.
(Q4, 2013 - Q4 2014):
C2 marketing and services development; C2 incorporated in U.S. and Indonesia; C2 fully staffed and operational in Indonesia; initial products/services offered in the market;
Significant progress in refinement of operational model and product / services offered (est. initial 500 client SGBs); baseline established for social impact indicators (worker numbers, SGB revenues);
C2 SGB client total reaches 2,000; 1,000 new SGB jobs created - documented through above baseline; C2 reaches 50 employees and representatives in Indonesia.
Begin initial exploration of two new countries for 2015 launch (potentially Pakistan, Egypt, Nigeria, Kenya), for scale and replication of this commitment.
Q4 2014 - Q 2015:
C2 launch in two new countries, building upon learning from Indonesia operations and initial pilot tests.
SGB client total reaches 6,000; documented new jobs (above baseline) reaches 10,000; C2 employs 80 in Indonesia
Small businesses have historically been the greatest engine for economic growth globally, yet small and growing businesses (SGBs) in emerging markets face immense barriers that inhibit growth, including: high costs to reach clients in new markets; limited ways to engage with customers and keep them returning; excessive overheads (e.g. administration, bookkeeping); and, insufficient access to funding to improve operations.
In most of the developing world, the cost of internet access and cloud-based software has been prohibitive for most SGBs. Even as mobile and internet penetration has grown exponentially across emerging markets, the volume of relevant (location/language specific) internet content lags far behind. Yet studies show that SGBs that successfully adopt internet strategies increase sales and employment faster than non-adopters. Management consulting firm McKinsey reports that internet use by emerging market SGBs can create 3.2 jobs for each one that is eliminated by improved efficiency (Impact of the Internet on Aspiring Countries, 2012).
Developing world SGBs are acutely interested in maintaining a digital presence, but most lack viable options-they must either learn to do it themselves or pay someone, which is often very expensive. One large multinational created a program for SGBs to build their own free website using do-it-yourself software. Though sign-ups were extremely high, less than one-third of SGBs were able to actually publish a site, and because site owners didn't know how to use their sites to attract customers, sites quickly grew stale. These failures were attributed to lack of adequate support to SGBs, and insufficient SGBs understanding or technical ability to optimize use of their sites.