You might have come up with the most innovative and impactful business concept possible; however, if no one wants to use it, how impactful is it?
Displacing decades of disposable consumer behavior is no easy task. Sustainability-driven businesses are trying to navigate this challenge while dealing with higher (initial) costs, and a lack of accessible investment.
For an impactful business to measure up, it can’t just be good; it has to be great — a convincing and desirable challenger to its unsustainable competition. At Enviu, all our ventures are designed with desirability at the core of their business models, alongside impact.
However, what does designing for desirability look like?
Does it mean convenience?
A cheap price?
Cracking the desirability dilemma means leveraging a lean design methodology, developing a deep understanding of the market and its local context, and iteratively creating, testing and improving a solution that makes the target audience tick.
Over the past three years at our Zero Waste Living Lab Program (ZWLL), we have been building a venture called Koinpack. The venture’s journey, development, and success show the importance of designing and collaborating for desirability.
Warungs, the starting point of Koinpack
Indonesia is at the heart of the world’s plastic crisis. Of the plastics that the corporations mainly use, a particularly pernicious form of waste is the ubiquitous single-use plastic sachet. These small, multilayered, and impossibly difficult-to-recycle sachets are of little value to any waste ecosystem. They are consumed — and wasted — to the tune of 5.5 million per day. To tackle this problem, we founded our venture Koinpack.
This is Koinpack’s proposed solution: a reusable delivery system, and an alternative to products currently delivered via single-use sachets. However, where do we start?
Single-use sachets are popular in Indonesia for a reason: they’re both extremely cheap and incredibly accessible to low-income consumers. Both these factors are driven by the need for convenience. That said, can a complex return system compete with convenience?
Like all Enviu ventures, we started by employing a lean start-up and human-centered design methodology to efficiently build a venture that meets the needs of its end users, rather than our assumptions.
The starting point was learning, shadowing, and interviewing customers to understand the decisions that led to the purchase of sachets, and the major pain points within this existing system.
Customers frequently purchased these sachets from local convenience stores known as warungs. Price and convenience were a driver of the majority of purposes, but there was no shortage of complaints. Single-use sachets, as the name suggests, are often just for one-time use. If customers wanted to ration their sachet of soap or detergent, they were forced to engage with a messy and inconvenient system that led to waste, leaks, and over-consumption.
The solution seemed simple: a returnable, reusable, resealable alternative. That’s where Koinpack started. The local team reached out to warung owners and began their early pilots.
They sold their reusable alternative alongside sachets in (three to five) stores across Jakarta and further incentivized them with a reclaimable deposit. Their reusable alternative was backed by a simple tech system: warung owners would scan a QR code, record the customer’s name or phone number and then have the transaction, sales, stock, and cashback recorded.
While the team found a degree of success, the pilot wasn’t successful enough. It still required a higher return rate and greater consumer adoption.
So what now?
How collaborations boosted desirability
The problem was the nature of the product and the nature of the warungs.
No matter how simple the reuse system was, Koinpack’s user experience was such
a rapid departure from the ‘take, use, dispose of’ cycle, that some level of explanation was still needed. Warungs are a low interaction point of purchase where customers swing by to make a quick purchase.
To put it simply, customers weren’t ready to have a conversation about a new reuse system.
Then what next?
That question led the team to explore two crucial as-pects: boost the products’ desirability, and create a valuable network to increase awareness around their product. The outcome was two collaborations.
The second collaboration was a little closer to home. Waste banks, or “bank sampah” as they’re known in Indonesia, are community-based waste management initiatives that encourage local households to divert their waste away from landfills, via segregation and exchange for currency. Waste banks are not just a site for waste segregation and exchange, but a space for education and a key stakeholder in tackling Indonesia’s waste problem.
Koinpack initially reached out to two waste banks in West Jakarta and received a warm welcome. Its customers had a high rate of interaction and a high degree of environmental awareness, representing the perfect early adopters of Koinpack.
Acting as a point of sale was a first for these waste banks, but a collaboration proved to be a perfect match.
Supplying Koinpack with a steady stream of highly engaged customers, the waste banks also acted as a point of education with the staffers happy to act as ambassadors for Koinpack.
This collaboration was a breakthrough in Koinpack’s mission to become a desirable solution, and is representative of Enviu’s overall approach to venture building.
It is simply not enough to design a product and bring it to the market. A product or solution must be deeply intertwined within a local context to deliver it to customers at a time and place that makes sense.
Working with these waste banks proved that by leveraging the team’s deep understanding of local markets and collaborating locally, they could build awareness, find new customers and make a more desirable product.
This opened the door for a slew of collaborations that would further Koinpack’s growth and adoption down the road.
Next, impact at scale
As they continued to sell at waste banks and warungs, Koinpack gradually introduced more sales channels.
First, they leveraged peer-to-peer salespeople who doubled as product ambassadors. These were female micro-entrepreneurs, who have a strong environmental drive and identify with the idea of being part of a solution.
At the same time, Koinpack was developing the tech needed to rapidly scale. The team built an online sales channel where customers could get reusables delivered anywhere within the Greater Jakarta area.
They also partnered with zero-emission city logistics company Westbike to ensure that Koinpack’s delivery of the reusable product is sustainable.
Seeking collaboration to increase impact and desirability took Koinpack further than just adding new points of sale. Local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that campaigned to solve the nation’s plastic problem, proved to be like-minded partners and effective amplifiers of Koinpack’s solution. To these NGOs, having a living and working example of the problem they were seeking to resolve was an excellent tool in their campaigning toolkit and a win-win collaboration for both parties.
In 2022, Enviu and GIDKP launched the Reuse In Jakarta program. GIDKP (Gerakan Indonesia Diet Kantong Plastik) is an Indonesian expert in advocacy, education, and awareness building. As part of the Reuse in Jakarta, Enviu is connecting with the government of Jakarta to build a local show to build a local showcase for reuse solutions in the capital city, as well as work on advocacy, education, and campaigning on reuse solutions, whilst closely involving the local communities.
Koinpack is giving masterclasses to local communities to educate them on reuse solutions and empower them to become change-makers. As part of this, new waste banks are being onboarded to offer products in reusable packaging in their locations.
Through building these partnerships and actively fostering collaboration, Koinpack had built a strong foundation for impact.
The future for Koinpack
In the meantime, the venture has been validated in the market and is growing rapidly.
It has reached over 2,500 consumers and
replaced over 310,000 single-use packaging.
Now poised for scale, Koinpack is building and iterating upon its tech as it pivots to a platform-based service with room and potential for rapid scale.
But perhaps, what’s more exciting for the venture is the opportunity that further collaboration will bring. Today, major fast-moving consumer goods (FMCGs) and suppliers, who delivered their products in single-use packaging, are conscious about cleaning up their value chains.
Koinpack is now working with two of the world’s largest FMCGs to pilot reusable packaging for their flagship brands. Attracted by Koinpack’s traction with consumers, these partners were further won over by a team with deep on-the-ground expertise, strong test-based methodology, a high degree of agility, and the ability to rapidly respond to change. Going forward, these international corporate collaborations will represent an incredible opportunity to leverage decades of expertise and a highly developed infrastructure spanning Indonesia to deliver real, meaningful impact at scale.
Koinpack was never designed with the expectation that customers would simply accept reuse as a concept. The team in Indonesia was persistent in increasing the desirability of the solution, taking nothing for granted. Ultimately, creating impact isn’t about a shiny new app, an innovative new product, or nurturing an utmost passion for impact. It’s about constantly questioning your assumptions, being open to change, and never being afraid to reach out and work together.
This article was published in Enviu Impact Magazine 2022.