For both international companies and NGOs, a key problem in working in developing countries relates to distribution. It can be very difficult and expensive for organizations to get products to remote areas in places with little or no developed infrastructure. However, Coca-Cola is head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to tackling this issue.
Because of its unique distribution system, it is possible to buy a Coca-Cola just about anywhere on earth. In some places, it is even easier to find Coca-Cola than clean drinking water. One innovative organization is hoping to learn from Coca-Cola’s example and use similar distribution practices to get medications to remote and poverty-stricken areas.
ColaLife is a charity that is currently working in cooperation with local Coca-Cola distributors. The idea behind its project is simple: find out how Coca-Cola’s distribution network could deliver medicine by getting an anti-diarrhea kit to remote locations. This would be done by piggy-backing off Coca-Cola’s vast distribution system.
The initial concept employed by the program involved creating an innovative package for the kit, which includes oral rehydration salts, zinc supplements, an information leaflet and soap, that would fit between the necks of the bottles in a Coca-Cola crate. This way, no space would be taken away from actual Coca-Cola bottles and the kits could simply go wherever the bottles go and be sold in the same locations.
The organization is currently running a pilot program in Zambia. Although no retailers have thus far agreed to carry the kits in their Coca-Cola shipment crates, close cooperation with the Coca-Cola Company and its distributors has allowed ColaLife to learn about the logistics involved in distributing products to remote locations. It is thereby using Coca-Cola’s infrastructure, if not its crates themselves, to get the anti-diarrhea kit to market.
The effort of the organization is now directed at marketing its anti-diarrhea kit to local retailers, who are profiting from selling the kits in their local outlets. By subsidizing its kits, ColaLife is able to ensure that the sale of the kits is profitable to all those involved: retailers earn a 35% profit whereas wholesalers earn a 20% profit. Through continued learning from organizations such as the Clinton Health Access Initiative, ColaLife hopes to reduce the cost of producing the kits so that no subsidies are needed for their sale to be profitable.
Through its pilot program in Zambia, ColaLife hopes to prove that already existing distribution systems can be used to bring simple medicines to remote areas. This would eliminate the need of having to rely on and create new centralized distribution networks for these types of products. Furthermore, if it is able to decrease its costs, it could provide a new and self-sustaining way to bring medicines to people in need. The ultimate goal would be for large organizations with global reach to then adopt this approach to deliver life-saving products to remote areas.
– Caroline Poterio Martinez