For any entrepreneur – especially social entrepreneurs – it is critical to collect feedback from the people you are serving. One obvious reason is to ensure your products and services are useful to your target audience, and that they are properly addressing their needs and wants. A less obvious reason to undertake this effort is that it can often unearth some unique, creative ideas on what more you could be offering.
This week, Upaya is releasing a new social performance study on Saahas Waste Management, a partner enterprise that provides formal training and employment for poor households in the waste management sector. Saahas provides each employee with a reliable salary, healthcare, pension, insurance benefits, and an opportunity to build new skills and knowledge, all in a safe and dignified work environment. Our study surveyed a sample of Saahas’s full-time employees, with the goal of assessing how these jobs are impacting households and their ability to make progress out of poverty.
We were happy to find that most households have experienced a significant increase to their monthly incomes, and this has helped them make improvements to their quality of life, especially as it concerns the purchase of new assets. Respondents in particular appreciated that their wages were paid on time and were fair for the work they were carrying out. Employees have forged a deep trust with Saahas in a way that they haven't with any employers in the past.
This comfort encouraged many respondents — over two thirds of them – to request that Saahas also provide a loan facility for employees. Having experienced bouts of unemployment before, along with significant income volatility, many respondents have had to take out high-interest loans from moneylenders to help them address health care needs and other emergencies. Roughly half of the employees are currently paying off such loans, and it is clear that they would like better alternatives (from a fair, trusted source) in case the need arises to take out loans in the future.
It is interesting to us that there was so much demand for a loan facility, and that respondents were keen to have Saahas provide it. It will be up to Saahas management to decide if it is able or desirable to provide such a facility, either on its own or in partnership with another trusted institution.