Commercially sustainable BDS to poor customers - The case of Sri Lanka

This paper explores by means of theoretical and action research if it is possible to offer Business Development Services, such as management training to poor customers on a commercially sustainable basis. The hypothesis is that either the product or the delivery channel has to be modified in order to cater to poor customers. In some cases both must be modified. This paper makes the assumption that the product, ILO-SIYB (Start and Improve Your Business) training is suitable for poor customers, but the delivery channels must be modified.

Two pilot projects were completed with modified training delivery mechanisms. The first built on a mobile business centre that in cooperation with the district chamber of commerce went around to small villages to market and conduct training the same day. The second pilot project built on working very close with a Community Based Organization (CBO) as a natural link to their poor members. Many of the tasks were then decentralized to the CBO.