This week’s Economist has a great study on India. I strongly recommend you read it.
I wrote a piece over a year back presenting the thesis of merging the models of home based sales reps and micro-finance, called, Tupperware Party Around The Village Pond.
One of the the Economist stories describes “Project Shakti” by Hindustan Lever that has implemented exactly this solution. “Shakti entrepreneurs” are village women who are offered tiny loans to support direct-to-home distribution networks for shampoos. It already reaches 80,000 villages, and by 2010 expects to employ 100,000 entrepreneurs covering 500,000 villages.
It’s brilliant, and should become a standard model.