Building an effective distribution channel for IPM

Ispahani experience

Cinque Terre
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About Ispahani:

Ispahani Agro Limited (IAL), a sister concern of M. M. Ispahani Ltd. has been active in the agro inputs business since 2007. Since inception, IAL has been striving to grow with its seeds and bio-pesticides lines of products.

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Natural Inputs:

IAL takes special pride in promoting environmentally friendly agro solutions, including Integrated Pest Management (IPM) products that harness natural solutions to challenges from pest, parasites, and other harmful microorganisms.

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IPM:

Integrated Pest management (IPM) is a relatively new idea with many farmers in the Southern Delta of Bangladesh, which presented IAL with a challenge in terms of how to educate farmers on the benefits of IPM. IAL also realized that beyond their farmer customers they also had to educate the distributors and retailers that were responsible for stocking and selling their IPM products. To help them with these challenges, IAL partnered with USAID’s Agricultural Value Chains (AVC) project.

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Agro Fairs:

Ispahani worked with AVC to rethink what it means to market agro-inputs to farmers. From the start, it was clear that IAL needed to establish a more direct relationship with famers so they conducted four Agro Fairs in Jessore, Rajbari, Bhola and Jhenaidah districts. Through the fairs, IAL was able to directly engage farmers, building rapport and creating the foundation of understanding of the value of their IPM products.

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Fun Events:

To make IAL’s connection to farmers more relational and less transactional, IAL also made sure that the fairs were enjoyable for farmers with different forms of entertainment, including games where farmers can have fun while learning.

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Promotions:

IAL also re-envisioned its promotional materials, working with local marketing experts IAL redesigned its leaflets, posters, festoons and danglers to better resonate with farmers and create a stronger brand association to quality and trustworthy inputs.

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Learning Sessions:

IAL wanting to further deepen its connection to its best farmer customers organized Farmers’ Learning Sessions in 18 upazillas. The learning session were used to provide more detailed information to farmers about proper application of IPM technologies to maximize effectiveness as well as allowed IAL to interact with their loyal farmer customers.

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New Strategy

IAL and AVC realized from the start that IAL need to also rethink how it engaged and developed alliances with its distributors and retailers. For IAL to reach thousands of farmers with its IPM products it needs to work through these intermediaries. IAL developed a performance management strategy to engage its best dealers and retailers with trainings, merchandizing support, and co-promotional efforts.

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Vital Force:

IAL recruited 10 interns and groomed them so that they can act as service providers to the farmers through their best distributors and retailers. They were given Training of Trainers (ToT) so that they are updated with the market and agricultural field level knowledge. They were also engaged in field activities, including Farmers Learning Sessions, Distribution Channel Member Training and Ispahani IPM Fair, to make them practically efficient. By investing in and creating stronger alliances with their distributors and retailers, IAL is laying the groundwork for customers access its product with full confidence they are getting what they pay for.

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Outreach:

IAL’s new strategy has moved past superficial engagement with its farmer customers, distributors and retailers having conducted in depth training with 1,400 farmers and 180 distributors/retailers.

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Relationship matters:

IAL’s bold move to rethink their marketing strategy moving away from superficial and transactional efforts and towards relational investment has proven not only good for its bottom line, but also the right thing to do. IALs takes pride in its leadership role promoting safe and effective alternatives for farmers and is convinced that it is through its customer farmer, distributor, and retailer relationships that it can out compete other firms.

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Growth:

IAL’s sales of bio-pesticides grew in 2016 by 93.10 percent, nationally, and by 36 percent in the South.

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Commitment:

IAL is committed to helping its farmer customers with technologies to not only boost IAL’s bio-pesticide business growth, but also reduce the health risks associated with using chemical inputs. IAL customer farmers who have adopted bio-pesticides have lowered production costs by one-third while increasing yields by 20-30 percent.