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    In Practice: Successful Innovators


    © International Trade Centre, International Trade Forum - Issue 2/2000

    These cases are drawn from ITC's survey on innovation among services exporters.

    Helping microfinance institutions become self-sufficient

    Action for Rural Development (AFORD) is an indigenous, non-profit organization based in Uganda which specializes in microfinancing. In Uganda, the programme has expanded from one district to four and from 200 to over 450 clients. Its success has been due to policies that ensure cost efficiency and practices that reinvest earnings and loan repayments in the programme. Having identified the factors that make it successful in helping microfinance institutions become self-sufficient, AFORD now exports its expertise to other parts of Africa and India.

    Technology innovation provides up-to-date phone listings

    In many developing and transition countries, access to accurate and current telephone numbers continues to be challenging. Hard-copy directories tend to be incomplete, out of date or in limited supply. Pakistan Telecommunications Ltd addressed this problem by providing a 24-hour on-line telephone directory through the Internet. It is now in a position to export this expertise to other markets.

    Putting it all together: Innovative service offerings, delivery and organizational practices

    Tanzania Posts Corp. has adopted country-first innovations of all three kinds:

    Service design. Postal mini-buses offer passenger services along domestic regional routes. Postal outlets have become one-stop service centres that sell stationery and communication products; provide photocopying, telephone and money transfer services; accommodate agents who sell newspapers; act as agents for others by accepting newspaper advertisements, selling lottery tickets, selling revenue stamps for radio stations, and selling tickets for motor boats between Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar.

    Service delivery. It has automated counter services to reduce waiting times and improve quality of service (introduced initially as a pilot project), with dial-up or on-line electronic data interchange systems connected to headquarters.

    Organizational structure. It contracts out post offices that are not breaking even, has introduced a performance contract, and has launched a computerized track-and-trace system.

    Rigorous quality assurance backs innovative services

    Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) is one of Asia's largest global independent software and services companies, with 59 offices worldwide. Headquartered in Mumbai, India, it has worked with over 500 companies around the world and has a high rate of repeat and referral business. Revenues have doubled every year for the past six years and it now employs 10,000 software consultants. In order to stay at the leading edge of technology changes, TCS has alliances with the major technology drivers worldwide for testing new information technologies. In addition, it has academic research connections to enable it to anticipate emerging technologies before they gain commercial acceptance. In order to help clients to become even more competitive, TCS has established seven competence centres around India to house state-of-the-art resources and accelerate the time it takes to place new applications on the market. All the centres have been certified to ISO 9001 or are working towards certification. This type of rapid international growth would not have been pos-sible without innovative services backed by a rigorous quality assurance system.

    Personalized yet predictable trade information services

    The Brno Chamber of Commerce in the Czech Republic has been a leader in providing economic and trade data on-line to the entrepreneurial public, including options for cooperating in regional programmes with European Union partners. To facilitate commercial links between local and foreign firms, the chamber of commerce moved beyond customized service to develop the "mini-trade mission" concept. It provides clients with background research, selects and screens potential local partners, prepares a meeting schedule, and arranges for car hire, use of meeting rooms and booking accommodation. It then accompanies the client to all meetings (an average of five) and provides interpretation and cultural coaching services. In a rapidly changing economy that is not yet well known abroad, this personalized yet predictable service helps to make the foreign client feel more welcome and increases the partnership options for local firms.

    Network of experts guarantees affordable costs, technical quality and independent judgment

    JSC Ukrimpex is a joint stock company in Ukraine. It provides a range of consultancy services including expert examination of investment projects on such points as price, ecological impact and economic efficiency for Ukraine's Cabinet of Ministers Foreign Currency Credit Council. In addition, it provides technical and economic studies of proposed engineering projects for international companies. It can maintain a flexible performance capacity and guarantee technical quality and independence of judgement by drawing on leading experts from the Ukrainian Academy of Science, scientific research institutes, banks and other professional agencies on a project consultancy basis.