Established in 2005, Ideas for Work (IaW) is a social enterprise producing and selling manual water pumps for the benefit of the people living in the poorest socio-economic group in Cambodia. Currently, IaW is transforming from an NGO (non profit) into a sustainable social enterprise in order to achieve their goal: to be economically self-sufficient after 2012. IaW is well on its way to achieving this as 2012 is so far showing the best sales results and the first real profits are in sight.
As of 2011, Ideas for Work has reached a quarter of million people who now have daily access to clean water. Over 4000 pumps have been installed in all 24 provinces of Cambodia and up to US$ 4,40 daily extra income has been generated according to the Case Study done by Pari Project, an independent consultancy group.
Ideas at Work designs and produces simple, easy to use, strong and affordable water and sanitation products for the Cambodian people. These products are made of local materials, which solves the spare part supply chain troubles many other products have.
Beside water pumps, the products go from Rainwater harvesting tanks to Bio-sand filters and tulipfilters, a device used for treating contaminated water at the household level. The last design from the Cambodian Technical team is the Raised Rovai, a pump that lifts well water into a high container to allow running water in the house, garden and toilet. (To see all products please visit IaW page: http://www.ideas-at-work.org/OurIdeas.html)
The distribution channel is the most challenging part of the operation and consists of Independent Sales agents who promote these products all over Cambodia. Informative talks and entertainment are used to pique the interest of the villagers.
In 2011, IaW started a pilot project where they supplied small loans after existing microcredit banks rejected to supply small loans for water pumps and water filters. These banks found the water sanitation supplies to be ‘household appliances’ and not ‘income generating’. At the conclusion of this pilot, IaW shared their success (100% sales increase in the test area) with other Micro Finance Institutions (MFI) and now these organizations will provide loans to villagers.
During the 3rd Open-Day on December 9, 2011 IaW presented the factory and all products to interested NGO’s, businesses, well diggers, MFIs and local government visitors. This resulted in new customers in 2012.
According to Angelique Smit, Manager Director of Ideas at Work “it has taken a long time to get the product known in Cambodia. Our competition is mostly the ‘bucket&rope’-method to lift water from a well as only 5% of the 800,000 wells in Cambodia have a pump attached of which 30% aren’t working according to the Ministry of Rural Development. The big challenge is how to reach these people and convince them of the time saving, economic opportunities and health benefits when using a pump.
As a Social Entrepreneur one accepts that our social goals are as important as our financial goals and therefore we accept a longer period before success. We don’t have large promotion budgets to let the people in the villages know about our products and existing distribution and promotion networks don’t exist. Furthermore, if we had to loan the money to build infrastructure and promotion campaigns, we would never be profitable. Thanks to being an NGO in the beginning we were able to use funding money to pave the first paths. 2012 will be the year of independence and already as many pumps as whole 2011 have been sold (info Aug 2012) which adds another 30,000 people to the total number that benefit from our pumps.”
To learn more about Ideas at Work, their mission, awards and investment possibilities please refer to www.ideas-at-work.org.