If we give things away, we will not really know whether people value what we provide. When we sell our products at a price poor families can afford, we get immediate feedback signals daily from people who have spent their hard-earned money. If we design products that don’t increase incomes or that are not affordable, people will simply not buy them.
People who are trying to survive can’t afford to wait for traditional giveaway programs that may or may not find their village… When we treat people as customers – not as recipients of charity – they have the ultimate power and choice to decide whether they want to buy what we’re offering. As a social enterprise, we don’t decide what people should get. It’s up to them to decide. So much of the aid industry is based on patronage relationships. We wanted to have a different kind of relationship with the people we are serving. It’s a more transparent relationship, one of mutual exchange and respect. It is less patronizing to treat people as customers than to treat them as “charity recipients.”