November 10

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Visiting GSK Consumer in Johannesburg & back to Market activations in the Lusaka peri-urban compounds

Mid-October, we had the chance to fly to GSK offices in South Africa. In Johannesburg, both GSK Pharma and Consumer sit in the same building. This is a very nice and green business campus shared amongst several companies.  We had the opportunity to meet our main point of contact, Kovilin, regarding the follow-up of Live Well, the social enterprise I am volunteering for.  I had the chance to share with GSK local teams my experience in Zambia so far: mainly, I shared the Pulse volunteering programme (its process and objective), the social enterprise in which GSK is an investor in Zambia, my personal experience, feelings and emotions I have been through since June as well as some snapshots on Zambia and its local population, its cultural habits and behaviours. Indeed, this immersion makes me realize that you can’t approach Zambians as you would do in South Africa. In Zambia, the face-to-face contact is really important: they need to see you in order to build trust, to feel you, to see and touch the products and demonstrate them how products work, how beneficial they are to them.  We discussed with the Marketing team about several actions to better penetrate the Zambian market. I suggested increasing the supply of promotional materials to our agents with GSK brand logos on it. Indeed, Zambians love advertising and there is a strong brand recognition once it is set up into the market. Once Zambians are convinced by the benefits of a product, they will remain faithful to it.  So, we discussed about promotional gazebo, kiosks advertising, adverts…  The team was interested in collecting our feedback: for example, I reported that the point of sales materials for our shops were very complex to install with long explanations in the instruction notes to fix it in the shops. It could be simplified and almost ready-to-install. The locals won’t open the instructions notes and won’t read them anyway. Now, let’s go back to Zambia and wait to receive this new marketing support for the GSK team.

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GSK Johannesburg: Consumer products, Simulated display with all products basket along with competitors’ products

Over the last weeks, I also had the great chance to be part twice to recruitment processes within the NGO , CARE. Therefore, I have been asked to review and comment the job description, read the received applications and participate to the interviews and the ratings. This was a great experience, full of human relationships exchanges. I enjoyed this Human Resources experience and could not imagine how much we can learn from people ‘experiences through their cover letter and interview! I was also positively astonished by the discipline and rigour in the process: I was asked to rate in a grid the CV and cover letters. All applicants spent a lot of time writing long and captivating cover letters, showing strong interest in Live Well. I took time to read and rate each one. Most applicants have strong educational background, accumulating several diplomas. In Zambia, it is very common that people continue studying while they are working in a company. I wish recruiters in Europe would take this time in reading all these nice cover letters… Unfortunately, as most of activities are outsourced and automated in Europe, even in HR, we’ve lost the human factor by not reading cover letters thoroughly anymore which creates in the end strong frustrations to applicants when they receive automatic replies. I also participated with the jury to the preparation of key questions during the interviews, each jury member owning some key questions. The agenda was prepared for half a day. We spent between 30 and 40 minutes with each applicant. During the interview, I asked my key questions. Every jury member receives a scoring grid to assess each applicant per question. This gives total points per applicant. The HR manager collects all jury members’ total points, and, after calculation, selects the applicant. We debrief all together and agree on the final selection. This was a great learning experience to me and I was pleased to receive my two new identified colleagues at work, colleagues I knew in advance a little bit more regarding their history thanks to this well-organised recruitment process.

To end my post, today, I feel re-energized thanks to an amazing day on the field, within the compounds of George and Chipata districts (peri-urban Lusaka) where we performed market activation activities by playing once more drama in the markets in order to create awareness of healthcare products. I benefited from this day to also show them new products we have identified with suppliers: It was a pleasure to demonstrate a new solar light combined with radio and station to charge phones. All agents, children and people in the street came with strong interest in the products. We can’t imagine how much solar lights are important to them! It helps local population in the evening, even children to do their homework! Because at 6 pm, it is already getting dark, and there is no electricity in those areas! Also, as there are a lot of babies in communities, I identified a baby aqueous cream which seems to be of strong interest to women here! As a consequence, there is a strong chance we will introduce these new products to our basket. Now, I just need to negotiate prices as the locals are very price-sensitive. Money is not available, especially now as the harvest season was really bad and people have almost no savings and extremely low and variable revenues. Children surrounded me all day long, greeting me all time as I was the only white girl in the community (named “musungu” for white people)! I also had the pleasure to dance with the drama group in front of almost 300 locals who had a nice laugh when I joined the team!