To reach consumers in underserved markets, firms often need to build laborious and expensive logistics and distribution infrastructures. Given the difficulties intrinsic to these markets, this cost is unaffordable outright or unsustainable over the course of a normal business cycle, thereby preventing manufacturers and retailers from serving low-income, high volume consumer markets. This is harmful not only to the firms themselves, but to consumers in underserved regions, as it leaves them with scarce options for obtaining the basic products they need on a daily basis.
The advent of Smartphone and tablet computing platforms has advanced the power and functionality of mobile devices exponentially, to the point that we now carry ubiquitous, always connected handheld personal computers. Global consumer patterns and Moore’s Law both predict that these advanced technologies will soon reach a mass scale in developed markets, and quickly thereafter in emerging markets, as has been the case with previous generations of mobile devices.
The mission of the MIT m-Logistics Initiative is to understand the basic commercial processes in resource-constrained environments (pricing, transaction, procurement), and to design and deploy a mobile software platform that can enable Industry Partners to distribute their products to low-income markets with substantially lower overhead.