Fan Milk: Digitising the Field Vendor Management by Franchisees of a Dairy Company in West Africa
“I am very happy to count Optimetriks as our IT partner for our sales digitisation effort. I appreciate their reactivity in rolling out software solutions that are relevant for us, that produce the right analytical data to understand our distribution at a granular level, be it field vendor or retailer. They have been able to replicate efficiently across our six West African countries, regardless of their specificities.”
Ziobeieton Yeo, General Manager West Africa, Managing Director Ghana
Danone acquired a majority stake in Fan Milk Ghana (FMG) in July 2019. FMG is a brand household name in Ghana, as it is more than 50 years old and consumed daily at a very large scale. It produces food consumer goods: frozen products, long shelf dairy, long shelf juice, with low unit prices, from 0,1$ to 0,8$. They are mostly sold in an indirect distribution scheme. Around 1,000 distributors called “agents” stock and sell the products through thousands of field/street vendors, individual freelancers that roam the streets to reach the end consumers, easily recognized by their uniforms and their carts/bicycles. The distinctive honk of a vendor alerting of its presence has even become a familiar and signature sound of Accra, as it can be seen in this Fan Milk ad.
This management relies on agents looking after the field vendors, meaning:
Having dedicated and branded premises
Storing the products in fridges
Managing the equipment (bicycles, push carts, etc)
Allocating the products to the vendors and collect the sales information on each
Vendors are not tied contractually with the agents, they act as freelancers showing up to work when they can and are keen to. It is usually a tough subsistence job, that requires standing and walking all day in the sun in busy streets environments. As a consequence, there is an issue of vendors churning, meaning stopping working while they have been trained and equpped. Fan Milk objective is to ensure vendors come regularly to sell, avoiding unexpected fluctuations in FMG sales. Research has pointed out that closer management of the field vendor and a performance based award mechanism can significantly reduce the churn. Considering the cost of onboarding and equipping an agent, the time he/she takes to reach more sales, there is a clear business case in investing in a solution in that field.
Objectives sought with our digital solution
The expected objectives of rolling out our solution were the following:
Put in place a transparent, accurate and automated sales reporting mechanism at agent and field vendor (FV) level. While Fan Milk captured the sales to the agent through their standard invoicing system in the ERP (sell in), they were blind in the sell out of the agents (sales to vendors), meaning they were unable to know in real time the net position of stock at the agent level, and when they should prompt them to order.
Bring efficiency and visibility on sales data analytics through a full business intelligence suite. That reporting can now show at various levels, regions, agent, down to the individual vendor, the sales performance, the attendance, the SKUs sold, etc.
Bring more efficiency in asset management monitoring, to optimise their sales impact. Fan Milk provides assets to the agents to make the vendors more productive: pushcarts, headbox or bikes. There is an issue in being able to reconcile clearly the agents with the assets, and measure the productivity in each asset, meaning how he contributes to sales. That is done by registering the vendor sales with a specific asset on the app.
Digital data capture with our Mobile App
The cornerstone of the project was essentially to put in the hands of the 1,000 agents and their shop assistants our mobile application to allow them to register their vendors and assets and log their daily sales. Our Android App can be downloaded directly from the Play Store, and regularly updates, making it easy to distribute it among agents. More importantly, we have ensured it is compatible with all Android devices to avoid Fan Milk having to bother about giving specific handsets to the agents. It is a model of “Bring your own device” that makes it easy for Fan Milk.
The capture of data moved from a paper based reporting to digital one thanks to the adoption of our mobile application as the front end interface for the agents. One must keep in mind that before the user friendly experience of a mobile application, the shop assistant had to write down the data in large books that Fan Milk would give to agents. As you can see in the picture, it was a tedious exercice first to note it down, but even more so to aggregate the data at a global level in real time. As you can tell, even reconciling the vendors with just a first name is not really reliable.
Large logbooks used before for the manual data entry
A shop assistant capturing data on the app
The first step of the system was to populate the lists: field vendors, assets and SKUs. Each field vendor is registered by the agent on 20 attributes, including key information data, including his phone number, ID, and face picture. These attributes have been defined in a custom way, as per the classification of Fan Milk. While the first batches were provided by the head office, the next edits and additions have been done directly by the agents on the mobile. Our lists functionality can indeed be either read only if there is no need for the mobile user to modify it, like for the SKUs, or editable. If it is editable, the benefit is that you ensure there is only one single list at any time that is up to date accross the system. This is particularly needed to manage vendors which come and go at any time, and it would not have been possible to have only the system admin to create them. Empowering the agents with that have been key in the deployment success.
The next step is about logging the sales. Every morning the agent registers the booking of the field vendor, meaning the goods he gives on credit to the vendor to sell during the day. He selects the vendor in the list, the asset he is using, then navigates in a matrix to log the number of products “booked”. That booking generates a return tasks, that expires after a few days, that the agents needs to fill to indicate how many goods have been brought back by the vendor, and the money that is due. The expirating setting is configurable and allows to make sure the closing is done. Other key features of the application are:
Offline mode, allowing the agent to work even if not connected. All the functionnalities of the app, even GPS capture, work without data connectivity. That is particularly relevant in areas with poor data quality.
Restriction of the vendors list to only the agent. An agent only sees the vendors and assets that have been assigned to him, through a scoping parameter.
Ability to share a task among the different members of an agent (shop assistant, manager). This gives full control of the business owner on what is done by his shop assistants, and potentially step in if one is absent.
Automated calculation of the quantity and value sold. That creates more trust in the relationship between the vendor and the agent to know the money that is due to be given back. When a vendor left with more than 10 different SKU types and a large quantity, and there are 20 vendors in the shop, the shop assistant needs to quickly know the money to collect.
Ability to easily search through the list of vendors and equipments.
In app insights to view the performance per field vendors, etc
Capturing a vendor booking
Simple matrix to select the SKU and see how much is due by the vendorIn App Performance Insights
Fan Milk Management uses a complete suite of online reporting dashboards to understand the performance of its outdoor business. Multiple filter dimensions are available, per geographical level, type of agents, etc. The reports update in real time and allow Fan Milk to be in full control of their sales dynamics.
Impact and Testimonials
In less than 6 months, Fan Milk has been able through its network of 1,000 agents to capture the full registration details of more than 15,000 field vendors. The solution has been also replicated in the other countries of operations of Fan Milk: Nigeria, Togo, Benin, Côte d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso in record time.
Fan Milk has seized the opportunity to leverage the sales data to implement monthly commission to field vendor based on several performance criteria such as the number of days worked, their average daily sales, and total sales. Thanks to our digital solution, we are able to quickly compute the payout due to each vendor, display it on a web page for validation by the Finance team, and then automate the bulk payment in mobile money to the field vendors a few days after the month end, boosting their motivation.
Vendor Promotion recognition
“Optimetriks solution has helped us dramatically improve the understanding of the outdoor business. Thanks to the timely data we get, we are able to understand the engagement of the field force and put in place the right sales policy measure to achieve our objectives”.
Joseph Ribeiro, Sales Operations Manager, Fan Milk Ghana
“I appreciate a lot working with Optimetriks.They are a strong IT partner, very reactive to incorporate our change requests, with a business minded approach. Their SaaS architecture has been robust and has allowed us to quickly replicate the system in the other West Africa countries we operate”.
Frank Osei-Karikari, IS/IT Key Accounts Manager (CIO), Fan Milk West Africa
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