The Sharing Cities program is aimed at complementing traditional sales channels for Bel products with inclusive distribution networks originating from local purchasing practices. Accordingly, in several major cities in emerging countries where the Group operates, Bel uses existing street vendor distribution networks to sell The Laughing Cow®. This innovative business model enables the Group to broaden its consumer base, while helping to make the business activities of its street-vending partners more sustainable.
“The business model we have developed merges growth with solidarity,” explained Alexandra Berreby, who heads the Sharing Cities program within Bel Explorer, the Bel Group’s idea incubator. “We help street vendors grow their business and sales, while facilitating access to health coverage, banking services and professional training.”
The support stems from discussions undertaken with street vendors in each of the cities where the program is deployed. “During these discussions, street vendors aired their various concerns, such as a lack of social protections and difficulty in getting training, as well as a feeling of being at a disadvantage vis-a-vis the growing modernization of the economy in their countries,” Ms. Berreby added. “It was these priority needs on which the Group decided to focus its action.”
First launched in December 2013 in Ho-Chi-Minh City, Vietnam, the Sharing Cities program has since been rolled out in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, Hanoi, Vietnam, Dakar, Senegal, and Antananarivo, Madagascar. Today, it encompasses more than 6,000 street vendors, including 1,500 who benefit from health coverage, 900 who now have a bank account and over 600 who have been trained to manage their business.