Aquatabs – the Hybrid Social Distribution Model
Last month I spoke to Michael Gately, Marketing Director of Medentech. The company is well known for its Aquatabs brand of rapidly dissolving tablets. It is one of the best known and most respected names in point-of-use water purification globally and is used to disinfect billions of litres of water every year.
TN: What is the public private partnership?
MG: It is a collaborative model that involves WHO (World Health Organization), UNICEF (The United Nations Children’s Fund) and at country level it also includes central, local governments and NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations).
TN: Your Route-to-market strategy revolves around a hybrid model. Can you elaborate on this?
MG: The hybrid model includes three legs: Emergency preparedness, retail sales supported by above the line advertising and door to door social marketing. At the retail level we normally work with local importers. However , in a number of countries, NGOs such as PSI (Population Services International) can also fulfill the role of importer and distributor at the retail level.
TN: Can you explain the door to door distribution?
MG: In some countries NGOs are organizing a door to door sales person. This person fulfills the role of a community based distributor and also an outreach worker. They derive their income from the sales of Aquatabs and other products. Door to door distribution is very important as the sales person finds himself right there where the child might be sick today. The sales person also has the opportunity to hand them a behaviour change message and handle any objections they might have. This is very hard to do with above the line advertising.
TN: What is your pricing strategy?
MG: We don’t arrive in a country with a price point and we normally work backwards to make sure everybody in the sales channel earns a livable wage. We also want to make sure that our prices are in line with what people are willing to pay for our products. The margins that people can earn are very attractive and Medentech has a long term commitment to keep their prices affordable.
TN: How do you forecast demand?
MG: Pre-positioning is a big part of what we do and we have stock pre-positioned all over the world. The businesses we are in have enormous search capacity. You don’t know when another Tsunami might happen. We normally plan five years ahead and are currently constructing a new factory in India. Our capacity is way beyond what any urgent search might require. However, having products available in local shops is the ultimate in crisis preparedness.
TN: Do you provide any training to partners?
MG: We have developed a comprehensive training program for emergency water treatment. It is a day long training program that we provide to all of our distributors. The training program covers key issues such as water treatment options and what to do in an emergency.
TN: What does the future hold for water purification?
MG: The water sector is going to become more and more stressed and the need is growing. There are 5,000 children a day dying due to diarrhea and we can have a substantial impact. Hybrid social marketing is still a relatively new science and we are learning all the time. However, there are organizations with expertise in the area, in particular, PSI, AED and Path. The mood among our network is that we just need to get on with it and do it.