Out in the Market
The past couple of weeks have been spent doing market research and trying to make a label for the ‘Fiti Yoghurt’ brand. We wanted to do market research to find out the public perception of our project and use it as a guide for things like labels, marketing events, promotions, etc. So we recruited four local friends to act as ‘Research Assistants’/ translators and went all over Oyugis, Kadongo and surrounding areas to interview people. Our interview questions were mostly based on people’s purchasing habits, their perception of yogurt, and their knowledge/perception of ‘Fiti Yoghurt’ (our project). We haven’t analyzed the data up to a man sci profs standards yet but a lot of things became pretty obvious right away. Firstly, no one knows about Fiti Yoghurt. And the people who actually do know about the project, and even the people who buy yogurt daily, don’t know that it’s called Fiti Yoghurt. The majority of people are purchasing their food from the market or general shops on a daily basis and what they buy is mostly based on how much they have to spend that day. We showed everyone prototypes of potential labels and asked them what they preferred. Almost every person picked the simplest label and said that the label MUST have a picture of a full, healthy cow. And the bigger the udders the better. We asked questions specifically about how they pick where/who to buy from in the market. Most people I interviewed said their number one concern is the personal hygiene of the vendor and their product. I was a little surprised by that answer because nothing seems too hygienic in the market. But I guess it’s the small things; one man told me they look at how clean vendors nails are. In general, people were mostly concerned about the health benefits when it came to buying food and rarely buy luxury food items. Overall the interviews went well and it was interesting meeting and having in depth conversations with local people from all over. There were a few challenges like things getting lost in translation. Sometimes the RA would ask the person a question and they would reply with this long, detailed answer and there would be hand gestures all over the place and then it would turn into a conversation between them and then his translation back to me would be just ‘Yes’. Some of our questions were a little unclear or leading questions and we had to modify our survey almost daily. One that caused a lot of confusion was how much they spent daily on food. We also asked their income (either daily or monthly) and there were a few times when they wouldn’t match up. There were a few people who told us their daily household income was 100 KSH but they spent 500 KSH a day on food. Regardless, were hoping we can use the information to guide any decisions we make so that were doing things the ‘local’ way, rather than the crazy Mzungu way.
Fiti Yoghurt – Healthy Living
One of the main takeaways of the research was that there is absolutely no brand awareness of Fiti Yoghurt. So we made a bunch of prototypes of labels and came up with some slogans with the Mama’s input and the information we had gotten from our research. We wanted to get the Mama’s from both kitchens together to pick the label they liked best so we could ‘launch the brand’. The idea was to make it a fun event where the Mama’s could all socialize together and pick which label they felt would be best for Fiti Yoghurt. The only thing we didn’t anticipate was that groups of women, no matter how old or what culture, will always have drama. The two kitchens see each other as competition rather than partners and I guess there have been a few incidents in the past of the women clashing. So although we had explained our intentions to the Mama’s and bought them cake and tea and beads to make jewelry with to try and make it fun, the Mama’s were extremely divided and continued to clash. In the end, after a long day of appeasing the Mama’s, we managed to get a little input on the label but realized we would have to rely more on what we found out from our research. The final outcome was a label that Jackel had made combined with a picture we found of a full cow and ‘Healthy Living’ as our slogan. On the back we decided on including an expiry date, description of probiotics, ingredients, and the addresses of both kitchens. We use polythene bags to package the yogurt and were going to try and print screen on them. We’ve had a few samples done and although they look good, the ink gets rubbed off a little with condensation from when the yogurt is put in the fridge.
Business as Usual…?
Business is done incredibly informally here. We’ve decided to use a man named Moses who does screen printing to print the label on polythene packages (what we pack and sell the yogurt in) for the Oyugis and Kadongo kitchens. Our plan is to brand the packages and everything associated with the Kitchens (like the aprons the Mama’s wear, the coolers they carry the yogurt in, etc) but we’ve had some problems with quality and timing. Moses favorite saying is that he won’t be on time, he’ll be ‘in time’. As far as I can tell that means he’ll finish on his own time – whenever that might be. We also made a contract for Moses because we hope to use him for the long term but I don’t think anything has come of it. Meetings are always informal and usually last minute arrangements. Agreements are rarely put on paper. Working here as a Mzungu is especially interesting. We tend to get special treatment and everyone is willing to go out of their way to help us out. However, we also generally need the help of local friends when buying anything to avoid getting ripped off and paying the Mzungu Price (which usually involves a 500% premium). On the positive side, my bargaining skills have really improved.
Lessons With the Mamas
We decided to try and have weekly business lessons/discussions with the Mama’s to teach them some basic business skills like recordkeeping, customer service, improving operations, etc. We did our first lesson with the Oyugis women on basic recordkeeping. We tried to make it a discussion by asking them why they thought recordkeeping was important, etc. The Mama’s recordkeeping is done very sporadically and only by a few of the Mama’s (we found out from our lesson that some of the Mama’s don’t understand basic math). So we made some practice sheets and tried to walk through the recordkeeping process step by step. In general I think it went well but there’s only so much we can do for the Mama’s who don’t have the basic math skills to begin with so were thinking we might have one-on-one lessons with those Mama’s. We want to have lessons at the Kadongo kitchen but are going to have to structure them differently. The Kadongo women, in general, are better educated and less marginalized than the Oyugis women. Most of them have business of their own or are teachers so business lessons aren’t as necessary.
The interns (plus Ellena) spent a weekend in Kisumu to meet up with Rebecca (who had been there the last couple of weeks). We rented a car for the weekend and drove down. Its about a 2 hour drive to Kisumu which Ellena drove there and back. Driving in Kenya seems like a terrifying experience that I don’t think my driving skills could handle. They drive on the opposite side of the road and most roads have ridiculous potholes so people have to drive all over the road to avoid them. So essentially its just weaving back and forth to avoid potholes, other cars, motorbikes, bicycles, people walking, and an assortment of cows, donkeys, goats, and sheep. Kisumu is the third biggest city in Kenya and is a complete culture shock after small-town Oyugis. I didn’t realize how used to Oyugis I was until I was shocked to have small luxuries like pizza, ice cream and clean beer glasses in Kisumu. We went on a boat ride on Lake Victoria and saw hippos. The boat was made of wood, had a tiny engine and was definitely leaking. A hippo would have for sure won in a fight against our boat if it came down to it. But they’re really cool to see. They’re about 3 kilos each and they just hang out in the water all day and occasionally lift their heads for air. After the boat ride we went to a BBQ at the place of a group of Americans we had met the night before. They work across Kenya with a farming NGO and have a place in Kisumu as a place for them to all go for weekends. We had delicious burgers (which seemed pretty surreal – we would never be able to find burgers in Oyugis) and went and watched the Ghana vs US World Cup game on the rooftop patio of a fancy expat resort. US lost and the Americans we were with were crushed but everyone else (including us) was cheering for Ghana so mostly everyone was celebrating.
We took a day trip to Kendu Bay after finishing our market research with our research assistants as a kind of thank you. Kendu Bay is a half hour drive from Oyugis and the only way to get there is to take a station wagon that they squeeze 12 people into (13 including the driver). The trunk for no apparent reason seemed like the best option so of course Amanda and I jumped in right away. Kendu Bay is right on Lake Victoria but is covered in floating green weeds. So you can’t actually see water but there are boats floating around in an endless sea of green.