Mumbai, India, Sept. 10, 2014 – Acumen, a leading social impact investor addressing poverty across Africa and South Asia, together with Grameen Foundation India recently partnered to better understand caller poverty levels for Ziqitza Health Care Limited, an Acumen investee providing emergency ambulance services in India. The study was funded by the Aspen Network for Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE).
The results show that Ziqitza is overwhelmingly serving low income customers in Punjab and Odisha, the two states studied. On average, 76% of Ziqitza’s callers in those states fall under the $2.50 a day poverty line.
The study used Grameen Foundation’s Progress Out of Poverty Index® (PPI®), a simple ten-question, country-specific poverty measurement tool. The study leveraged existing company operations – in this case, customer service follow-up calls Ziqitza conducts with a percentage of the over half-million people who use the ambulance service each year.
“This is the first time we have ever known for certain that we are meeting our social mission. It’s reaffirming for us, and the state governments that support the service,” said Sweta Mangal, Ziqitza’s CEO. “These findings help us deliver our service better to customers who need it most and will be helpful in garnering continued support of marketing initiatives and public-private partnerships to serve the poor.”
Ziqitza’s call center operators completed 1,000 customer insight calls using the PPI across Punjab and Orissa, where Ziqitza has several hundred ambulances in operation. In both states, Ziqitza operates through public-private partnerships with state governments that allow emergency medical transportation to be offered free of charge. Five percent of those responses were then validated through in-person interviews to test the accuracy of the results collected by phone.
This approach to gathering accurate data on customer poverty levels sidesteps what is an often burdensome process of sending surveyors into the field to collect income data. These new efforts are part of Acumen’s Lean Data Initiative, an effort to experiment with how to collect impact data more efficiently using different kinds of technology.
The survey report also makes recommendations for Ziqitza and state governments to strengthen even further their outreach to the poor. The surveyed group was found to be poorer than state averages across the regions we studied except rural Orissa where the population the company is serving is about 10% less poor than the regional average. There, Ziqitza is in the process of expanding its ambulances to reach the poorest areas.
The data also presented important insights about the gender of Ziqitza’s customers. Two-thirds of those surveyed in the random sample were women and for Punjab, poverty levels of female patients were significantly higher than that of their male counterparts. In the same vein, of the total medical complaints registered, 43 percent of cases were pregnancy-related or related to maternal and child health. Coordination efforts between Ziqitza and government schemes that support maternal and child health are the likely contributor to poorer women accessing Ziqitza’s services in higher numbers, demonstrating the potential for impact when successful partnerships are forged among several public and private players.
“Working on this project has been very exciting for us at Grameen Foundation as we were able to test a new methodology for administering PPI questions to clients. We are glad to see socially conscious investors like Acumen and their investees endorse poverty measurement and apply resultant data to their strategy. With our constant endeavour to build a user friendly and statistically accurate tool, reports like this help trigger a larger dialogue around the importance of client level insights and its application for sound business decisions” said Devahuti Choudhury, Program Manager – Social Performance from Grameen Foundation India.
Only a few years ago, ambulances in Indian cities were perceived by many as hearses due to a lack of quality standards, and were rarely available in rural areas. Ziqitza began with just nine ambulances at the time of our investment in 2008, and now operates more than 1,250 ambulances in 17 states across India. Since then, it has served more than 3.2 million people.
“These types of insights are invaluable if we are serious about building sustainable and scalable businesses that serve the poor,” said Ajit Mahadevan, Acumen India Director. “Acumen is fully committed to bringing to the forefront the best approaches to impact measurement and integrating these types of learnings into our overall investment process.”
For more information on the study, please visit http://acumen.org/content/uploads/2014/09/ZHL-PPI-study-final.pdf
Acumen: Elizabeth Patella, epatella[at]acumen.org
Acumen India: Prerna Khanna at pkhanna[at]acumen.org
Grameen Foundation: Liselle Yorke at lyorke[at]grameenfoundation.org
Acumen is changing the way the world tackles poverty by investing in companies, leaders and ideas. We invest patient capital in business models that deliver critical goods and services to the world’s poor, improving the lives of millions. Since 2001, Acumen has invested more than $88 million in 82 companies across South Asia and Africa. We are also working to build a global community of emerging leaders that believe in creating a more inclusive world through the tools of both business and philanthropy. Please visit www.acumen.org for more information.
About Grameen Foundation
Grameen Foundation is a global nonprofit organization that helps the world’s poorest people achieve their full potential by providing access to essential financial services and information on health and agriculture that can transform their lives. Founded in 1997, it delivers solutions that respond to the needs of the poor, as well as tools that help poverty-focused organizations become more effective. It focuses on initiatives that can achieve widespread impact and uses an open-source approach that makes it easy for other organizations to adopt them broadly. Nobel Laureate Dr. Muhammad Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank and the Grameen family of companies, is an inaugural member of its Board of Directors, and now serves as director emeritus. Grameen Foundation is headquartered in Washington, D.C., with offices in the U.S., Asia, Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean. For more information, please visit www.grameenfoundation.org or follow us on Twitter @GrameenFdn.
Grameen Foundation India is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Grameen Foundation.