Business Services for Small Enterprises in Asia: Developing Markets and Measuring Performance

International Conference

Hanoi, Vietnam - April 3-6, 2000


SEWA Banascraft Project: A Case Study in Rural Marketing

By

Garrett Menning

With the Support of Reema Nanavaty and the

Other Staff of Banascraft

United States Agency for International Development

Sponsors

German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ)

United States Agency for International Development (USAID)

Mekong Project Development Facility (MPDF)

Committee of Donor Agencies for Small Enterprise Development

Abstract

The paper assesses the utility and relevance of the Business Development Services Performance Measurement Framework (BDS PMF) by means of a case study of Banascraft, a BDS project in India organized by SEWA (Self-Employed Women’s Assocation). Banascraft helps poor women in a sparsely-populated, underdeveloped area to manufacture and market traditional handicrafts. The project’s approach and the particular local problems that it seeks to overcome highlight important issues in the current debate about the proper goals and strategies of BDS. In recent years, there has been a general shift in focus in the BDS field from promoting particular supplier organizations toward the broader goal of fostering vigorous, competitive markets. However, in the case of projects like Banascraft, stimulating a robust market environment with competition among a number of different BDS suppliers is simply not a realistic option in the near-term. The paper explores areas of complementarity and overlap between the organizational development model and the market development paradigm. In the process, it also uses the Banascraft case study to suggest ways to improve the usefulness, versatility and relevance of the PMF for both donors and practitioners.

PROJECT DESCRIPTION

Introduction

This paper aims to assess the utility and relevance of the Business Development Services Performance Measurement Framework (BDS PMF) by means of a case study of Banascraft, a BDS project in India. The attempt to apply the framework to an existing program helps to illuminate several current issues in BDS. What kinds of performance measurements can best help donors and practitioners assess the effectiveness of BDS programs designed to assist micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)? The answer to this question depends on the goals that donors and BDS suppliers hope to achieve and the directions that they wish to go with BDS. While there is a consensus that improved sustainability, outreach and impact are central aims, the means of achieving them has occasioned considerable debate. One major controversy from the donors’ perspective concerns the appropriate focus for interventions—is it more important to improve the performance of particular organizational partners (organizational development) or to pursue the broader goal of improving the overall functioning of markets (institutional/market development)? Although donors traditionally followed the organizational approach toward BDS, in recent years the BDS field has increasingly gravitated toward the latter goal of stimulating private sector markets, and the PMF has been explicitly designed with the overarching goal of BDS market development.

In some respects, the organization- and market-oriented approaches may be seen as fundamentally opposed. The organizational approach by its very nature encourages donors to view the market from the point-of-view of specific BDS suppliers, which naturally seek to dominate the markets for their goods and services. From the standpoint of institutional development, however, the dominance of a single BDS provider or a small number of BDS organizations runs contrary to the central goal of developing "vibrant and competitive, (primarily) private sector markets." Thus, the market development paradigm seeks to foster competition among many BDS providers, with the expectation that the less efficient and demand-led will fail.

Dichotomizing the organizational and institutional approaches helps to highlight important issues and controversies in the field of microenterprise development, but at the risk of oversimplifying the debate. The dichotomy begs further conceptual questions. First, is the market-centered approach currently the only viable one? If we answer "no," then we must consider circumstances in which the supplier-focused model may remain the more appropriate or desirable strategy. A second conceptual question is whether there is a necessary dichotomy between the two approaches at all. If organizational and market development are not really mutually exclusive, in what ways might they complement or overlap with each other?

The example of the Banascraft project in western India provides some valuable insights related to the debate about organization- versus market-centered BDS and some general lessons about the applicability of the PMF to different types of BDS organizations. Banascraft is designed to help poor rural women in the desertified Banaskantha District in the state of Gujarat to improve their standard of life by selling their traditional handicrafts. The Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), which initiated the project, provides local craftswomen with help in the areas of social support and organization as well as in product design, manufacture and marketing. The project provides a case study of how a non-profit organization provides BDS for entrepreneurs in a sparsely-populated region in which pre-existing product markets and distribution networks are poorly developed.

Background

The Banaskantha District lies to the southeast of Pakistan, between the Indian state of Rajasthan and the desolate area of northern Gujarat known as the Rann of Kutch. The area has a dry, hot climate and saline soil. Local agriculture is rain-fed, and frequent droughts and famines afflict the area. The level of socioeconomic development in Banaskantha is low, with local rates of literacy and child mortality among the worst in Gujarat. Members of Banascraft claim that, before the project began, the women artisans in the area were not producing traditional handicrafts for the market on a regular basis, and those who did sell their crafts relied on local traders who took the bulk of the profits. Agriculture and cattle breeding provided the primary, if uncertain, livelihood for local people, who were forced to migrate in search of work during lean periods.

The Banascraft program aims to empower the craftswomen of Banaskantha by allowing them to earn a livelihood through handicraft production. The program is designed to help them work for collective benefit to improve the socioeconomic position of the artisans and their families. It started in 1989 with the formation of groups of local women into the Banaskantha DWCRA Mahila SEWA Association, allowing the women to organize on the basis of traditional craft specializations. Different caste and tribal groups in specific villages in the talukas (subdistricts) of Radhanpur, Santalpur, Harij, Diyodar, Tharad and Kanakre produce particular types of textile-related crafts, including embroidery, mirror work, patch work, weaving and bead work.

Banascraft provides a broad, integrated range of overlapping business development services, which I divide into four broad areas of BDS for purposes of analysis:

    1. Organization and capacity building: Assisting women to form village craft groups, pool their financial resources and integrate the craft groups into the larger Banascraft organization. Helping members access government services and encouraging participation in appropriate government programs.
    2. Product development: Helping craftswomen to innovate using new manufacturing techniques, designs and raw materials
    3. Training: Teaching and upgrading both business and technical skills to improve efficiency and commercial competitiveness.
    4. Marketing: Banascraft’s core service, involving the provision of market information, linkages and transport.

In addition, Banascraft offers programs to help women with health, housing and other basic social needs. These services cannot strictly be classified as Business Development Services, although they probably benefit the women’s business activities indirectly.

In designing the program, SEWA moved away from the co-operative model that had been used in other development schemes, preferring a less formal approach that would be more adaptable to the heterogeneous craft industry of Banaskantha, for which no pre-existing co-operative organization existed for supervision and auditing. Instead, SEWA began working through the DWCRA program, which was more flexible and allowed women to be organized according to their craft specialization.

The process of organization begins when a group is registered with the DWCRA and its members are required to start a joint bank account. The bank account allows them access to a revolving fund of 15,200 rupees (approximately $360) released to them by the taluka panchayat (subdistrict council) to fund their craft activities. The group’s chosen leader and selected other members then undergo training in purchasing raw materials (which gives them exposure to the supply side of the market), processing (including activities such as cutting, stitching, and printing), and distributing the semi-processed materials among the group. SEWA’s Craft Development Centre provides raw materials at reasonable prices along with a variety of free business training. A voluntary craft organization called Dastakar gives Banascraft support in product design and development.

Banascraft then helps the women in marketing their finished crafts. Banascraft’s staff works in cooperation with members to distribute and sell their goods outside the district. Several thousand craftswomen are involved in craft production and manufacturing through Banascraft, but only a fraction of these market their goods on a regular basis through the program. One reason is the standards that Banascraft imposes, which limit the number of women whose handiwork is marketable by the organization. The craftswomen’s products are rated according to their salability, with "A" ratings for those goods of high enough quality to be sold at full price, "B" ratings for marketable but lower quality goods, and "C" ratings for those goods that are not fit for the market.

Currently, 62 village groups (out of a total of 152 registered groups) market their goods through the Banascraft program every month. Sixty-five percent of sales go directly to artisans, Banascraft takes 10 percent to cover the cost of marketing, and the rest goes to cover raw materials and other expenses.

Banascraft helps craftswomen to market their products both locally and in urban markets in India and abroad, through both retail and wholesale channels. The crafts are marketed through the Banascraft store in Ahmedabad (Gujarat’s largest city, where SEWA is headquartered) and through Dastakar, which has a shop in Delhi and also sells through bazaars and exhibitions. Craftswomen show their wares at festivals and trade shows. These include exhibitions in Indian cities like Delhi, Chennai, Mumbai, Bangalore and Pune. Craftswomen recently managed a trip to trade shows in France and are planning a visit to New York for an upcoming craft show there. In 1998, they sold $15,800 worth of embroidered handicrafts at exhibitions alone. Banascraft also promotes its members’ crafts through customer discounts, print advertising, television commercials, special festival promotions, and exhibits in major hotels and tourist destinations. In each case, Banascraft acts to facilitate sales in exchange for their 10 percent share of the final selling price.

Even more importantly than the commercial benefits offered by Banascraft, its organizers believe that its activities liberate women from many of the social and political constraints they have traditionally faced, giving them greater self-esteem and control over their lives. In the process of producing and marketing their goods, the women can earn a livelihood at the same time that they preserve their long-standing craft traditions. They learn to deal with business people, government officials and others beyond the boundaries of their localities. The Craft Development Centre helps them maintain their artisan traditions by documenting indigenous motifs and collecting samples of 400 different types of traditional crafts.

As part of their broader mission to uplift local women, Banascraft provides other social supports as well, making it easier for women to provide necessities for their families and reducing migration from local villages in search of outside jobs. Because the women work at home, the organization provides them with loans to upgrade their mud houses, allowing them to buy larger, better-constructed homes and expand their available workspace. Banascraft also helps to facilitate access to health and childcare services that women are entitled to through government programs for the poor.

This paper attempts to evaluate the Banascraft project using the PMF, and, by extension, to evaluate the utility of the PMF itself. The exercise can help to answer several interrelated questions. The central issue—the usefulness of the PMF in evaluating Banascraft—begs further questions related to the role of the PMF in fostering organizational and/or market development. How much utility does the PMF hold for donors in evaluating current or potential funding recipients? How can the PMF help BDS organizations to evaluate their own operations? What can the PMF reveal about an organization’s impact on the larger BDS market of which it is part? Can the PMF be used to reveal any circumstances in which organizational development should take priority over market development? Finally, does the Banascraft test case suggest any way that the PMF itself can be modified and improved?

THE BDS PERFORMANCE MEASUREMENT FRAMEWORK

The case study was conducted over the course of four days in December, 1999. Prior to the visit, Banascraft staff was supplied with the paper Measuring the Performance of Business Development Services for Small Enterprises and the PMF itself. We evaluated the indicators for the PMF following several meetings with Banascraft staff in Ahmedabad and a day-long tour of Banascraft operations in Banaskantha District

For the sake of practicality and ease of quantification, the structure and definition of Banascraft, its operations and its market were simplified for the PMF. Banascraft was assumed to be the "BDS provider" and each of the village craft groups to which it provided services was considered as a single SME. The BDS market was defined in the same way that Banascraft identified its target population of BDS consumers: the population of poor craftswomen in Banaskantha District.

For purposes of the PMF, the types of BDS provided by Banascraft may be broken down into the four categories of assistance described in the preceding section. Of these, two types of BDS were available before the implementation of the program. Training took place within the village and the household, with young girls learning manufacturing techniques and traditions from their elders. Traders provided limited marketing BDS.

The years compared on the PMF correspond to Banascraft’s fiscal year (April 1 until March 31 of the following calendar year). Monetary values were computed in U.S. dollars according to the rupee value at the end of each fiscal year.

Lack of sufficient financial data for many areas of the Banascraft program precluded concrete calculations for many of the indicators related to sustainability, cost effectiveness and impact. However, statements from staff and craftswomen provided a basis for some of the qualitative responses to indicators in these sections of the PMF.

All Banascraft members must also be members of SEWA, paying an annual membership fee of five rupees (about $.125). Banascraft only charges directly for one of its services: marketing. As noted, the organization takes 10 paisa for every rupee that women’s textiles fetch on the market (equivalent to a 10 percent commission). Because this is the one element of BDS that can be accurately quantified and because it represents the most important single service provided by Banascraft, marketing is the BDS category used as the indicator for BDS market development under Goal 1. If Banascraft’s contention that virtually no craftswomen in recent years use traders to market their goods is true, then Banascraft for all intents and purposes represents the only BDS supplier for these women in Banaskantha District.

The market for women’s crafts before the Banascraft program was very limited, and the amount paid by traders compared with the price they sold the goods for was very small. One woman reported being paid 35 rupees for a wall-hanging that brought 200 rupees on the market. If this is true, the trader’s mark-up was almost 575% percent! It is therefore hardly surprising that, even though Banascraft does not require women to use its marketing services, local women choose to market through the organization and not through private traders.

One of the few PMF objectives for which obtaining data was relatively straightforward and easy to ascertain was access of underserved groups to BDS under the Banascraft program. All of the craftswomen in the program clearly fit into this category. SEWA focuses on helping the same underserved groups given priority by many donors—poor women—and it employs a straightforward procedure for determining and verifying their eligibility in Banascraft. SEWA assists the rural women of Banaskantha and their Gram Panchayats (village councils) to prepare a list of members in their communities who possess the appropriate craft skills and then develops a shortlist of those who are officially classified as members of BPL (Below Poverty Line).

Rather than reporting actual numbers of women as BDS customers, the quickest and most practical means of assessing the indicators of market size and number of customers served was to enumerate village craft groups (treating them, in effect, as SMEs for purposes of the PMF)., which were easy quantify. According to Banascraft, 152 villages, or all of the communities inhabited by the women who produce traditional textiles in Banaskantha District, are part of the Banascraft program. Out of these 152 village craft groups, however, only 42 market their products through Banascraft on a regular basis. These statistics were used for many of the Market Development Indicators under Goal 1.

Because thorough accounting data was not forthcoming, it was not possible to calculate many of the indicators for Goals 2 and 3. The indicators for market distortion and sustainability were particularly problematic because, though Banascraft’s marketing fee seems to cover most program expenses, the ultimate degree of subsidy for the program is difficult to accurately determine. According to several of the members of the Banascraft staff questioned, the program is now self-sustaining and is not seeking or receiving any outside funding. As described in the next section, however, it seems that there may be some degree of indirect cross-subsidy through government programs and SEWA assistance from outside Banascraft. Therefore, recent subsidy was described as "about 0%" and sustainability as "almost 100%" in the absence of concrete data.

No rigorous, quantitative method for measuring client satisfaction was feasible because there was no time in the field test to conduct a substantive survey and Banascraft could not provide such information. Based only on the evidence of continuing involvement of local craftswomen and their enthusiastic comments on my short field survey, I rated client satisfaction as "high."

Goal 1: Increase Outreach (scale and access)

BDS Market Development Indicators

 

Market

Program

Objective

Indicators

1997-98

1998-99

1997-98

1998-99

 

Market size: No. of

women’s groups regularly marketing crafts

N/A

N/A

62

62

Expand the BDS market

Market size: Banascraft’s "commission" on craft sales by women’s groups

N/A

N/A

$7,100

$8,316

 

Market penetration: % of potential women’s groups in Banaskantha regularly utilizing marketing services

N/A

N/A

41%

41%

 

Number of regular marketing providers

1

1

1

1

 

Number of BDS products

2

2

4

4

Develop a high-

Well distributed, wide price range for BDS services

No

No

No

No

quality, diverse

Average price for BDS

N/A

N/A

10% of

cloth sale

price

10% of

cloth sale

price

competitive

market

Number and proportion of multiple-use customers in the market

N/A

N/A

62 (41%)

62 (41%)

 

Market distortion: Average subsidy content of BDS services

N/A

N/A

Minimal

Minimal

Increase access

of underserved

Extent of access: No. and % of BDS customers representing poor crafts women in Banaskantha District

N/A

N/A

152

(100%)

152

(100%)

groups to BDS

Target market penetration: % of potential BLP craft groups in Banaskantha District regularly using marketing services

N/A

N/A

62

(41%)

62

(41%)

Goal 2: Sustainability and Cost-Effectiveness

Assessing BDS Suppliers

 

Market

Program

Objective

Indicators

1997-98

1998-99

1997-98

1998-99

Achieve supplier sustainability

Recovery of operational costs from client fees

N/A

N/A

Almost

100% (?)

Almost

100% (?)

 

Simplified cost-benefit assessment comparing total program costs to aggregate program benefits to women’s groups

N/A

N/A

?

?

Improve program

Total cost per group served

N/A

N/A

?

?

cost-effectiveness

Total cost per supplier assisted

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

 

Total cost per increase in revenue

N/A

N/A

?

?

Goal 3: Impact

Assessing BDS Customers, SMEs

 

Market

Program

Objective

Indicators

1997-98

1998-99

1997-98

1998-99

Increase customer

Group’s satisfaction with marketing service

Low

Low

High

High

acquisition of BDS

No. of groups continuing to market regularly

N/A

N/A

62

62

Increase customer use of BDS

Customers’ gross sales through Banascraft

N/A

N/A

$71,000

$83,163

Increase customer benefits from BDS

Change in value added (craft sales-raw materials)

N/A

N/A

?

?

REVIEW OF INDICATORS AND BEST PRACTICES INFERENCES

Methodological Challenges

There were two major challenges in carrying out the Banascraft case study: first, obtaining and evaluating the types of information required, and then translating this information into a form appropriate for the PMF. These problems are related to the general question of who should be gathering the data and how it should be evaluated. Given the wide variety of BDS programs, what types of data are relevant to which types of program, and how encompassing can (or should) the PMF table be?

Data for the PMF can be gathered either by donors or their contractors, on the one hand, or by BDS suppliers and practitioners on the other. There are various costs and benefits associated with either approach. By gathering information directly, donors are able to focus on obtaining the kind of data that they want and can feel more confident of its reliability and validity. In many cases, however, they are prohibited by shortages of time and money (as in this study).

In most cases, donors will be forced to rely at least in part on data provided by the BDS organizations themselves. As noted in the guide for preparation of the PMF case studies, an appropriate division of labor might consist of data collection about wider markets on the part of donors, with individual providers providing outreach data. Those practitioners depending on grants would have a clear interest in obtaining PMF data if they believed that donors were concerned with these indicators. If practitioners could be convinced of the value of the PMF for evaluating and improving their own operations, they would also have a clear motivation for collecting the information for internal use. The collection of data by organization insiders, however, raises concerns about bias. Since insiders might be tempted to distort or suppress data in order to present a positive image of their organization to outsiders, it would be desirable to have some sort of independent measure of reliability.

From a donor’s point-of-view, having BDS suppliers collect data themselves also poses problems of quality control. Judging by the data they were able to supply for the case study, Banascraft, like many other BDS organizations, does not maintain records up to the standards of transparency, thoroughness or rigor that most donors would prefer. As reflected in the tables below, the inadequacies of quantitative data for many of the indicators about Banascraft meant that the PMF (particularly the categories under Goals 2 and 3) could not be completed with any thoroughness or rigor.

The second problem—fitting data collected into the PMF categories—had no easy solution. In Banaskantha and other rural areas where markets are poorly developed and not highly differentiated, the markets for skills, raw materials, training and finished handicrafts overlap. In an organization like Banascraft, the craftswomen often act as owners and managers as well as producers. Distinctions among categories of BDS and among facilitators, providers and SMEs are therefore difficult to draw. Any attempt to separate different types of BDS into discrete categories, while potentially useful, is bound to be to some extent artificial. In some cases, there were several different ways in which data could have been translated into the appropriate categories. Each solution had particular merits and drawbacks; none was ideal.

After discussions with staff from the Banascraft office in Ahmedabad, it was decided to treat each village group as an SME. While calling these groups "enterprises" is somewhat artificial in the sense that they do not have all the functions of real business firms, this way of defining them proved useful in terms of the PMF for several reasons:

One alternative way of looking at the situation, at least with regard to certain types of BDS, would be to analyze Banascraft as a facilitator and the women’s groups as BDS providers serving individual craftswomen. Each women served could then be regarded as an SME (i.e., a self-employed business owner). However, this would pose more problems than it would solve, in part because of the informal nature of the BDS provided within village groups. For example, Banascraft documents the number of annual skill upgradation training sessions it conducts (15 per year in 1997/98 and 1998/99) and the number of craftswomen attending. However, the women at the Banascraft trainings go on to train others in their villages or in neighboring villages, and this training is not as well documented and so would be more difficult to measure.

Using the PMF to Assess Market Development and Sustainability

How useful is the PMF in achieving its goals of measuring market development and BDS sustainability? In the case of Banascraft, some of these measures, such as the number of BDS competitors, are very easy to determine, because the market for BDS in Banaskantha District is so limited. They reflect that fact that Banascraft is, for the most part, the only viable provider in the market for BDS to craftswomen in Banaskantha. As such, these indicators are relevant and practical in this case.

Several indicators are more problematic. Those for evaluating the amount of subsidy to Banascraft and its overall sustainability and market impact are among these. While its staff claim that Banascraft is currently almost entirely self-sustaining, it does not appear wholly so when viewed in the long term. The program has not been self-sustaining in the past, it presently benefits from various indirect forms of assistance and subsidy, and will not necessarily be sustainable in the foreseeable future.

To what extent does Banascraft contribute to the functioning of a competitive market? The answer to this question is mixed. Banascraft has certainly contributed to the dynamism and competitiveness of local craftswomen’s groups. Not only have the artisans begun to sell more of their crafts to outside buyers since the program began, but the local craft economy has also become more differentiated and better integrated since the advent of Banascraft. Some DWCRA groups have developed better expertise in related areas like dyeing, printing and tailoring, and both forward and backward linkages are fostered among local craftswomen as these cloth processing activities are integrated into the local craft economy as a whole.

The traders connected with the local craft industry have also been indirectly affected. Before the program began, women occasionally sold their handicrafts to local traders who took a higher commission than Banascraft currently charges for marketing. Banascraft has put many of these traders out of business and those must pay higher rates than before. Some craftswomen can earn double what they once did. "Now, we compete with the trader," one women noted. However, suppliers of raw materials to the artisans have presumably benefited, because women’s demand for supplies of cloth and other inputs has grown along with demand for their handicrafts. Therefore, even though the numbers of agents buying the women’s end products has declined, this has probably been counterbalanced by an increase in the number of traders in raw materials.

Past donor funding and government assistance has helped Banascraft establish itself and expand its program. SEWA used the government’s Development of Women and Children in Rural Areas program to help women organize themselves into the village craft groups that are a foundation of the Banascraft program. Banascraft’s efforts were also supported by the government’s Training for Rural Youth in Self Employment program (TRYSEM), which provided three month’s paid training to village embroidery groups. The Gujarat State Handicraft Corporation worked out a plan in 1994 to purchase goods on a monthly basis from 10 DWCRA groups. The All India Handicraft Board provides assistance in design and product development. Finally, the Department of Rural Development helped SEWA set up the Banascraft marketing outlet in Ahmedabad.

The program may require donor funding in future to expand. The 1998 publication Banascraft: A Case Study in Rural Marketing, based on a presentation at the National Workshop on Rural Marketing sponsored by the Council for Advancement of People’s Action and Rural Technology (CAPART), calls for CAPART and other donors to give money for activities such as business planning, R & D, and sales promotion. It concludes that "the fierce, competitive, fast changing market calls for special and large investment, both by the Government, and developmental institutions and agencies."

BEST PRACTICES INDICATORS

Goal 1: Increase Outreach

BDS Market Development Indicators

Objective

Indicators

Relevance and Usefulness

 

Market size

Currently: Limited time-series data useful for tracking in BDS utilization by crafts groups but not individuals. Good data for marketing but not other forms of BDS.

Potentially: Longer-range, finer-grained data would allow comparison of prices and impacts of different types of BDS at the individual level. This data could potentially be useful in comparing BDS from individual traders and moneylenders with costs of BDS from Banascraft, which would better indicate degree of market development or contraction through time.

Expand the BDS market

Craftswomen’s sales

 

Market penetration

 

Number of regular BDS providers

 

Number of BDS products

Develop a high-

Well distributed, wide price range for BDS services

quality, diverse

Average price for BDS

competitive

market

Number and proportion of multiple-use customers in the market

 

Market distortion: Average subsidy content of BDS services

Currently: Little quantitative data available.

Potentially: Estimating the value of outside inputs and subsidies from donors, government and other non-profits would be useful for understanding market impact and for determining the real cost of BDS.

Increase access

of underserved

Extent of access: No. and % of BDS customers representing poor crafts women in Banaskantha District

Currently: Group-level data indicates that entire target group already has full BDS access.

Potentially: Finer-grained longitudinal data on individuals could be used to analyze changing usage of BDS from traders and moneylenders vis-à-vis Banascraft, showing changes in BDS market size and character.

groups to BDS

Target market penetration: % of potential groups of poor craftswomen in Banaskantha District reached

Goal 2: Sustainability and Cost-Effectiveness

Assessing BDS Suppliers

Objective

Indicators

Relevance and Usefulness

Achieve supplier sustainability

Recovery of operational costs from client fees

Currently: The best data are for marketing. Useful measure of sustainability for this area of BDS.

Potentially: Similar measures could be developed for other areas of BDS, but only if Banascraft changes the way these activities are organized (e.g., charging fees to individuals for specific services and keeping track of the cost of providing each BDS type).

Improve program

Simplified cost-benefit assessment comparing total program costs to aggregate program benefits for entrepreneurs

Currently: Banascraft was unable to provide coherent cost information necessary for these calculations.

Potentially: If Banascraft were to develop accounting procedures to do this, longitudinal data segregated according to BDS category would be useful.

cost-

Total program costs

effectiveness

Total cost per supplier assisted

 

Total cost per increase in revenue

Goal 3: Impact

Assessing BDS Customers, SMEs

Objective

Indicators

Usefulness and Relevance

Increase customer

acquisition of BDS

Customer satisfaction with marketing service

Currently: No direct data available. The no. of women continuing to participate in the program can be taken as a proxy measure of satisfaction.

Potentially: Although Banascraft’s staff may have close enough interaction with craftswomen to understand how well their needs are being met, some type of more formal survey could provide more concrete formal indicators that donors might prefer.

 

No. of repeat customers

Currently: Data on no. of groups marketing through Banascraft every month provides serviceable indicator.

Potentially: Data on individual use of the whole range of Banascraft services would provide more definitive answers. Drop-out rates could provide a negative proxy.

Increase customer use of BDS

Percent of customers that reduce costs, found new markets

Currently: Little quantitative data available, other than growth in gross income from marketing.

Potentially: Banascraft analyze changes in prices paid for raw materials or calculate the no. of women improving their technical skill ratings and track changes in individual income from crafts.

Increase customer benefits from BDS

Change in value added (craft sales-raw materials)

Currently: Banascraft provided numbers for 1997/98 ($.66 Million) and 1998/99 ($.08 Million), but they were obviously not credible.

Potentially: Longitudinal tracking of value added would be valuable, especially if the relative importance of factors such as changes in raw materials, skill upgradation, etc., could be determined.

The above tables only address the specific indicators already in the PMF as they relate to the goals specified. However, many of the indicators can be used for measuring other aspects of BDS programs as well. For example, average subsidy content reflects not only the degree of market development but also organizational sustainability. In other cases, one indicator may be taken as a proxy for another (e.g., the number of repeat customers can also be used as a measure of customer satisfaction).

Measuring the impact of subsidies using the PMF is a particularly thorny issue. At a basic level, simply defining what a subsidy is can be difficult. Everything from free training, product development assistance to start-up capital from donors could viewed as a type of subsidy. Having defined subsidies, determining their impact on BDS markets is fraught with further complexities. Free government-provided assistance, for example, may be theoretically available to all, but whether this in fact promotes a "level economic playing field" and a more vigorous market environment is open to question. The fact that Banascraft finds it necessary to help women access so-called "public goods" is a case in point.

There are also many possibilities for expanding the range of PMF indicators and even enlarging some of the categories themselves. For example, some of the forces that might otherwise be considered externalities or distorting influences could be reconceptualized as forces acting within the market, broadly defined. From this alternative perspective, government programs and donors could be viewed as potential BDS competitors, partners or clients for organizations like Banascraft.

CONCLUSIONS

In spite of inadequate data available for many of the PMF indicators, the field test does highlight several important issues and conclusions about the ultimate usefulness of the framework:

Strengthening the Framework

Considering that BDS organizations can specialize in everything from accounting training to marketing assistance, it may be too much to expect that all forms of BDS can be meaningfully summarized and compared according to a single page of standard indicators. Some very broad indicators, such as the number of clients served or target market penetration, may be useful in comparing the full range of BDS organizations. However, little value is served by comparing indicators like average price for BDS without considering BDS type and market context. Instead, BDS organizations should be classified according to the type of goods or services they provide and perhaps also the geographical markets that they are serving. A few central, broadly applicable indicators could be still be used as universal measurements to compare BDS organizations of all types, but most of indicators should only be compared among BDS suppliers of similar types.

Data Collection

Even a perfectly-designed measurement framework for BDS is useless without meaningful data to put into it. The poor quality of much of the available information on Banascraft raises several central issues about the data used to get at the PMF indicators:

  1. Where does it come from?
  2. How is the reliability of the data to be measured?

With these questions in mind, a standard rating system to measure the quality of data would be desirable. In such a system, a complete PMF containing data that has been thoroughly verified and cross-checked by an outside auditor would earn the top ("AAA") rating. Conversely, those BDS practitioners able to supply only data that has not been independently verified would receive the lowest rating. (Note that in this system, a low rating would not indicate that the data supplied is necessarily wrong, just that it is not independently verified).

Relevance of the PMF for Donors versus Practitioners

What constitutes "best practices" clearly depends on the goals of the person or organization defining these practices. Donors and practitioners may or may not have the same operational priorities and definitions of organizational "success". For example, Banascraft is reaching a target clientele similar to that sought by many microenterprise development donors (poor women entrepreneurs), but it does not function in as "business-like" a fashion as many donors might prefer. However, for the staff of Banascraft, this is a non-issue. To them, uplifting and empowering underprivileged women by bringing them together in village associations is the main priority, and making profits through handicraft sales is simply a means to that end. Thus, the women of Banascraft politely went along with our attempts to squeeze data describing village craft groups into the PMF table even though the guiding principles behind it do not correspond closely to the priorities of their organization. To them, classifying village craft groups as SMEs probably seems not just inappropriate but absurd.

Perhaps the fairest question that can be asked when judging the PMF is how useful it is in teasing out indicators that are generally useful for a wide range of BDS programs.

In many cases, donors will have different needs than practitioners for PMF data. The PMF has obvious utility for donors who want to measure the performance of BDS organizations they are funding or considering funding. The BDS facilitator and provider organizations on the receiving end of these funds also have a clear incentive for generating PMF data, if only to please donors.

For donor-supported projects, a reasonable way of setting PMF targets would be to have donors collaborate with practitioners to develop suitable indicators that are well-tailored to the particular needs of both organizations. This collaboration might occur most profitably after the donor has agreed to provide money for a particular BDS project but before the funds have actually been disbursed.

In some cases, organizations like Banascraft may not be looking for donor support. For them, good publicity could be a powerful motivator to collect and disseminate PMF data (a standard rating system would further strengthen the incentive to publish good-quality information).

Another motivating factor for practitioners to use the PMF would be its value for internal evaluation of their organizations. As noted above, the PMF is currently not very useful for comparing different BDS suppliers, but it can be very practical for analyzing changes occurring within an organization through time. The indicators can therefore provide useful tools for practitioner "self-diagnosis" and subsequent program improvements. These improvements could take the form of redesigned services, increased efficiency, better targeting of clientele, and, ultimately, greater sustainability.

Organizational versus Market Development

What are the broader lessons that can be drawn about market development from the Banascraft case study? Considering the poorly-developed economy of the Banaskantha area, its sparse population, and the remoteness of the villages where the artisans live, a complete market development approach toward the local handicraft industry is perhaps unrealistic for the near future. The current approach of the Banascraft program is probably the only viable one at this point in time. The organization has helped women to organize themselves, learn new business skills, improve their traditional craft techniques, and form commercial networks extending far beyond their local area. The results achieved—the creation of a relatively sustainable BDS project with a major positive effect on the living standards of poor local women—are impressive given the prevailing constraints.

Another instructive aspect of the Banascraft case—and one that cannot be resolved gvien the current paucity of data—is the degree to which a single provider organization can block or promote the BDS market. For example, the new types of craft and business training provided (or, perhaps more accurately, facilitated) by Banascraft complement and reinforce rather than replace traditional village-based craft training. The question of Banascraft’s effect on the craft market of Banaskantha District is more complex. Even though Banascraft’s staff claim that the demise of the traders who had supposedly "exploited" local women in the past is a positive development, the question of Banascraft’s impact on the marketing structures previously in place in Banaskantha District would require more research to answer with certainty. All things considered, however, it seems reasonable to conclude that the economic impact of the Banascraft program has generally been beneficial for both craftswomen and their communities, and that the program has, on balance, probably done more to promote local market development than to hinder it.

An important lesson from Banascraft for donors is that an initial focus on organization-building can lay the groundwork for later market development. In rural areas where market institutions are underdeveloped and the population of potential clients is small and diffuse, an initial strategy focusing on promoting a single well-designed program may be the most effective means for achieving optimal sustainability, impact and outreach in the short- and medium-term. As with any situation in which donor money supports a single BDS supplier, there is the danger that this sort of support can retard the future growth of a vigorous market. Ideally, however, the foundations laid by organizations like Banascraft, which have already achieved high levels of sustainability, might allow for the creation of a more dynamic, better-integrated market in the long term, as clients expand their enterprises, develop better business skills, and forge closer links with outside buyers and suppliers.

The Future of the PMF

This attempt to apply the PMF to the Banascraft BDS program suggests several broad conclusions relevant to the development of microenterprise best practices. The framework is potentially useful on several levels:

If the PMF is to fulfill any of these potentials, however, it requires further development. It should be refined so that it can be applied to a wide variety of BDS organizations in a more meaningful and sophisticated way. The goal of fine-tuning the PMF should, however, be balanced with ease of use. The PMF is meant as a "quick and dirty" means of assessing BDS suppliers, their customers, and the larger markets of which they are a part. It should ideally contain enough detail to allow donors a broad-brush picture of the activities of BDS suppliers and the market conditions surrounding them, while being flexible and straightforward enough that a wide range of BDS practitioners will be able to use and benefit by it. The PMF as it stands is a useful first step in this direction.

ANNEX

References

  1. Gibson, Alan (1999); The Development of Markets for Business Development Services: Where we are and how to go further; A summary of issues emerging from the real and virtual conferences on BDS for small enterprises. Paper prepared for the ILO, July 1999.
  2. McVay, Mary (1999); Measuring the Performance of Business Development Services for Small Enterprises: guide to the preparation of case studies for the BDS Conference in Hanoi, Vietnam 2000. Paper prepared for the Committee of Donor Agencies for Small Enterprise Development. September.
  3. Nanavaty, Reema (1994); We Can, We Will: Women’s Empowerment and DWCRA Programme. SEWA Paper Series Working Paper No. 3. SEWA Academy.
  4. Nanavaty, Reema (1997); Barefoot Managers – SEWA’s Cadre of Rural Managers. National Consultation on DWCRA, June 11-12.
  5. Nanavaty, Reema (1998); Banascraft: A Case Study in Rural Marketing. National Workshop on Rural Marketing, August 22. Council for Advancement of People’s Action and Rural Technology.

Updated by GT. Approved by PA. Last update: 15 March 2000.