A fellow blogger, Dave Richards (defeatpoverty.com) recently returned from a trip to India as a board member of Unitus. He just posted a number of his observations, which I recommend, including a paragraph that relates to our subject matter. Speaking about additional services of their MFI partners:
There are some great ideas for providing a "business-in-a-box" type product with built-in franchise-type branding/product and/or access to distribution channels. One example is that rural women are provided raw materials for creating incense sticks or clothing and there is a buyback of finished products to a large retail channel eliminating the middleman and therefore increasing the women's profits substantially. Another example is the creation of an optimized "dairy unit" consisting of 7 cows/buffaloes which is financed and operated by a group of borrowers which both doubles the yield of milk produced per day per animal and has built in profits through buyback with a dairy cooperative.
I would be very curious to learn about their distribution system and the exact relationship with the large retail channels. Honey Care Africa in Kenya also came to mind as they use a similar approach as far as empowering the poor as producers, collecting finished goods, and providing a connection with mainstream retail.
What products are most condusive to this strategy?