Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Holcim, Grameen Bank, and housing for the poor

Just found out that Nobelaureate Muhammad Yunus, co-founder of Grameen Bank, is also a founding member of the Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction Advisory Board.

Holcim has been very active in building a strong social face in Indonesia, especially since the Aceh reconstructions. The Grameen Bank approach is gaining popularity here as well, which is crucial in getting conventional bank’s attention to the poor as clients.

Are we seeing a light in the effort to bring private sector financing to enable the poor to build houses?

Just to balance things off: my friend was outraged when he found out about Yunus and Holcim. He said, "See.. this whole Grameen Bank thing is part of the global capitalism scheme!"

Previous post on problems with low-income housing mortgage

Technorati technorati tags: ,


  1. From my experiences with how a holcim's sales team work, I already suspected that some holcim's middle or top managers have experience working with construction in undeveloped country.


    Because they are the first sales team in Indonesia who seems to systematically try to talk to low and middle skilled workers while introducing their product. This is a good strategy because the low and medium skilled workers can vote what cement brand to use using a combination of complaining, delaying, or sabotaging, when they are forced to use cement brand they don't like. This is especially true in small to medium size contruction project.

    Too bad the sales team implementation is bad..

    Anyway, given how bad this sales team were at implementing it, I don't think this team was the one who come out with this strategy. The strategy is more likely to come from someone up there.

  2. Amitz,

    That's a good point. Good companies know who makes the real decisions, and direct their marketing effort that way.

    In the case of Aceh and Jogja reconstruction, Holcim has sponsored publication of comic books on good construction methods (perhaps aimed at construction workers?). The information provided is good, but the ubiquity of Holcim logo throughout the pages is overwhelming.

    It would be intesting to know how the implementation goes. Can you share a little bit on this? Thanks.

  3. well..

    They visit you using a kind of SUV ("kijang" type of car, if you're familiar with that term) with this holcim brand on the side. They will park it as near to the front of your office as possible, disregarding other more vip visitors that might need such strategic position. At one incident, they actually occupy 2 parking spaces.

    They come in a group of at least 3 persons. Sometimes 4 persons. They occupy waiting rooms while talking loudly. At one incident, they also talk in English because there was a marketing analyst from thailand in the team. Talking in english is not bad per se, but you don't have to be so loud as if you are flaunting your awesome english skill.

    In case you're curious, I only state my dislike on using parking spaces improperly.

    Regardless of those, they are actually pretty smooth in offering their product. Too bad they were not prepared since they didn't bring any technical specification of holcim cement, twice. They actually had to asked their office to find someone who have the spec, which indicates that they never give technical specification to anybody yet!

    Anyway, I digress too much :-).
    They tried to talk to workers nearby, asking whether they had used holcim before. They did it quietly, without permission, and gives workers caps and shirts with holcim logo. I can see why they don't ask permission, which is because it's unlikely to be granted, but what they did pissed people off.

    According to some workers, they talk to them arrogantly as if the workers were stupid.

  4. That's interesting.
    Thanks Amitz for sharing this.