Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Coca-Cola Launches a Global Cross Sector Partnership to Deliver Basic Necessities to Rural Populations

After reading Michael Copeland's Smarter Medicine and Matt Hudgin's New Hubs Arise to serve 'Just In Case' Distribution, I was intrigued to look for businesses that were utilizing just-time management for goods delivered to rural populations. While rural populations might not have as high of willingness-to-pay for goods it does not mean that they do not demand similar products as highly urbanized populations.

Coca-Cola has created a global cross sector partnership with DEKA R&D, IBM, Inter-American Development Bank, McCann Health, NRG Energy, Qualcomm Technologies, and UPS in order to deliver basic necessities to rural populations. This partnership recently announce that they will work together to design the EKOCENTER product. EKOCENTER is a kiosk that they are promising will improve the well-being of rural communities in 20 countries by 2015. Each company is bringing their individual technologies and business strengths to make sure that this product launch is successful and maintained.

I would argue that this global partnership is creating hubs that are serving a different type of "just in case" scenario. While Hudgin's explains that hubs are added as a safety measure for supply chains disruption, rural populations are rarely even considered when mapping out where products need to be delivered for consumers. These rural populations are living scenarios where everyday products are not available. Instead of trying to integrate rural populations into multiple supply chains for basic necessities, this global partnership plans to package and deliver these services in EKOCENTER to hopefully avoid scenarios where these products are not available for consumption. Thus, this partnership is creating hubs that are self-sustaining and life changing for many rural communities.

This global partnership plans to use this kiosk for community development and jump-start entrepreneurship opportunities. Firstly, it plans on inspiring women to take on job opportunities to set up and operate the kiosks. Coca-Cola plans on providing training entrepreneurial training for these women as part of their 5by20 initiative to empower 5 million women in Coca-Cola's value chain by 2020.

Here are some examples of technologies that will be integrated into the EKOCENTER:
  • Coca-Cola's Slingshot water purification system.
  • Vaccination refrigeration
  • NRG and DEKA R&D are working together on Stirling Engine Technology and Solar Panels with Battery Packs
  • Wireless Communication
  • UPS will use their expertise to deploy the EKOCENTER globally
I was pleasantly surprised to find that so many businesses are investing their time and money to provide these goods to rural populations. I wonder if this global partnership will inspire other partnerships to form to solve supply chain problems globally? When will companies realize that they may be able to solve problems quicker by sharing technologies and business models? Will LEAN methodologies be incorporated into the EKOCENTER?

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