Thursday, May 27, 2010

Day 17 - Collections, Marriage Proposal, Strange Animals, and Marriage Advice????

So what started out as an ordinary day, ended up being full of some interesting experiences. I had been up for the day about an hour and had just finished preparing myself breakfast. Doesn't this look good, Katie? My wife Katie got addicted to Milo (pronounced Me low) when were visited Chile last year. Since that time, she has slowly rationed the container of Milo powder that we brought back. Much to her joy, we recently found out that it can be purchased in Provo. Just as I was about to start devouring the food, Ankrah (a Burro employee) came and asked if I could go out in the field with him for the day. He still has his learner's permit and has to drive with someone else for the first three months. I quickly scarfed down the food, got my things together, and off we set.

As we started driving out of town, we started talking about what our day would consist of. I quickly learned that the purpose of our day was primarily to go around to different villages and try to collect a lot of the credit that was outstanding. As I may have mentioned before, whenever a customer initially purchases a Burro battery, they have to pay a GHC 1.00 deposit. Because of this, some customers have been unable to purchase a battery because of the initial upfront cost. Burro has been experimenting with offering credit to customers. Basically the way that it works is that when we have the initial Gong Gong, it a customer wants to purchase any batteries, a phone charger, or any coupons (for battery exchanges), they only have to pay 50%. The remainder is then due within 30 days, but split up to be be paid back weekly. Because Burro has been adding new clients so rapidly, there hasn't been as much of a focus on credit collections. We are just at an inflection point before Burro plans to rapidly expand here in Koforidua; therefore before that happens, we want to make sure that we have cleaned up a lot of the old outstanding credits.

Our day consisted of going to several villages and working with the resellers to figure out which of their clients still had outstanding credits and how we were going to get them to pay off those credits. Some people have been good about paying back the money that they owe, others not so good. Ankrah and I spent some time talking about some different methods of increasing collection repayments. Some of the methods that we discussed include:

  1. Telling customers that we have other products (including torches and lanterns) that we will be rolling out to the village. But until everyone has paid off their credits, we will not be able to bring it to the village
  2. Explaining to people that if they can't afford to pay back the credit for a small purchase like a battery, how will we be able to give them a bigger loan for an item like a lantern or a torch
  3. Setting up the customers in "credit groups." If one member of the group was late in paying their credit back, then no one in the group would be able to receive any credit. This would help as their would be group peer pressure to pay back the credit. This method is similar to microfinance lending groups, where repayment rates have been as high as 97%.
  4. When doing a gong gong for the first time, we could establish a credit lending group, which would be selected by the villagers themselves. Before anyone would be able to receive any credit, they would have to be approved by this credit lending group. The idea is that the credit lending group would know best which people will pay back the credit and which people won't.
We still need to flesh out some more of these ideas, but I think that we are headed down the right track. We strongly believe that credit is necessary, especially as Burro starts to roll out additional products and services that will be higher priced.

So a few random other items / pictures from today. Especially once you get out in the more rural parts of the country, is is pretty common to see old buses loaded to the hilt with people with cargo on top, like this one.

We were driving along the road, when all of a sudden we passed a dead animal hanging on the side of the road. This is a pretty common occurrence here. People will kill an animal, hang it up on the side of the road, and then wait for someone to come and purchase it. This was an animal that Ankrah had never seen before (nor had I for that matter), so we stopped and walked back to look at it. We weren't sure what it was, but after some additional research (and the response from someone Andrew had emailed), we found out that this is an African Civet. Apparently they have some kind of glands and the musk is used to make perfume. Kind of an interesting looking picture.

As I mentioned in a prior post, the children here can be content with just about anything. For some reason, just seeing an obroni can put the children in a good mood. Ask them if you can take their picture, and they get ecstatic, all fighting to get lined up first.  As we were working in one of the villages today (called Korf), there were a bunch of children running around. I asked them to take their picture and they were more than happy to have me do so. Here are a couple of photos that I snapped.

Funny thing happened while I was talking to these children. Notice the girl on the left in both of the pictures. All of a sudden she started laughing and next thing I know, all of the adults that were there as well started laughing. I turned to Ankrah and asked him what they were laughing about. He said, pointing to the girl, "she says that she will be your wife." I told him to tell them that I was already happily married, and he told them. Don't worry Katie, you have nothing to worry about. I love you.

On the way home I was talking to Ankrah and we got on the subject of whether he has a girlfriend. He then proceeded to tell me his entire philosophy on women and advice on how to properly select a woman to be your wife. He also had a lot of good thoughts and ideas on how to have a happy marriage once you are married. I shared these with Katie, my wife, and we both agreed that Ankrah is a very wise man for not being married. I won't take the time to share these here, but if you are really interested, let me know and perhaps I can share a few with you. Don't get me wrong, I am very happily married.


Melissa said...

i want to know!

katie king said...

I'm relieved that the proposal was from that little girl! The title worried me ;) J/K