Trade Without Borders Logo - Making a World of Difference, One Trade at a Time
Trade Without Borders Logo - Making a world of difference, one trade at a time

Our Practical Solution

Trade Without Borders (TWB) is creating a paradigm shift in thinking about international development.  TWB’s mission is to create sustainable social and economic value through responsible and inclusive global trade to, from and between developing regions of the world.  It is doing so by establishing a comprehensive and unique global trading platform that extends global trading services to the very Bottom of the Pyramid.  The platform operates in the space between global manufacturers, global logistics companies and local, inclusive distributors.  It aims to be decentralized and is driven by input from the bottom up whereby the identified daily livelihood needs of individuals, households and entire communities in developing regions drive the organization’s operations.

TWB’s unique global trading platform comprises of these key operations:

  • Understanding
    Local Needs

  • Product
    & New Product
  • Global Supply Chain
    to the BoP
  • Social, Economic &

Needs Analysis:  Understanding local community needs

Chart and magnifying glassIt is a daunting task to seek to better understand the daily livelihood needs of billions of marginalized consumers.  What we do will be a drop in the bucket toward gaining this understanding, but we believe it is a task worth undertaking.  It is not a task we can undertake unilaterally.  In fact, given the scope of the task, our efforts need to be as multilateral as possible.  We need partners and collaborators the world over.  The ultimate objective of this task is not profit maximization, but understanding and respecting so as to better serve and empower mothers in Swaziland, children in El Salvador, teenagers in Cambodia, and husbands in Papua New Guinea

Of almost US$30 billion in global market research spending in 2009, more than 85% was spent in the developed economies of Europe, North America and Japan.  Not surprisingly, most new product developments focus on the needs of consumers in developed markets, and most trade in goods and services involve developed economies.  However, about 85% of the world’s population, or over 5 billion people, reside in developing regions of the world.  Goods that do ship to developing regions often do not adequately meet the needs of consumers in those regions, as they may not have been developed with those consumers in mind.  At Trade Without Borders, we are intent on creating a paradigm shift in thinking about international development.  That paradigm shift begins by recognizing that even a person earning US$1 a day with limited financial means, is a consumer of goods and services with needs and wants that should be respected.  There are also consumers in these regions earning US$2 a day, US$5 a day, and US$10 a day who are essentially being marginalized in today’s global trading landscape.

Proper market research is time consuming and ordinarily expensive.  It may also be more convenient to conduct a survey on the streets of New York City than in an impoverished village in remote Swaziland.  However, should decisions about the needs of mothers in Swaziland be made in the meeting rooms of a development organization in New York, without even consulting the mothers of Swaziland?

Is it worthwhile to then trek to a remote village in Swaziland?  From a commercial standpoint, how might an understanding of mothers’ needs in Swaziland translate into sales, profits and earnings per share?  The more relevant question, we believe, is what would be the cost to those mothers, their children and households, the communities they reside in, and, perhaps, their nation if their daily livelihood needs were not understood?  What would be the cost for our global society if we continued to ignore their needs? 

Are you an academic or research institution, freelance consultant, development expert, professional market researcher?  We welcome the opportunity to collaborate on market research initiatives with you. Please click here for more details.

Product Procurement & New Product Development

Five icons

Global product procurement and new product development activities are coordinated by TWB's Hong Kong affiliate. TWB has established replicable product procurement and new product development systems, and encourages replication of these systems in local communities through local enterprises, thereby incorporating local knowledge and an understanding of local needs into the process. In this way, TWB also attains one of its key objectives of promoting trade to, from and between developing regions of the world.

Creating Efficiencies in Product Procurement for Local Enterprises in Developing Regions

Product catalog

Product procurement activities at present are out of the Far East, South Asia, Europe and North America. Manufacturers globally can utilize TWB as an efficient conduit to markets in developing regions, while inclusive, local distribution partners gain access to innovative and appropriate product solutions, with the assurance that goods have been procured from responsible and qualified manufacturers whose products are made to recognized international safety standards.

TWB's initial focus is on the Environment Sector. As such, its Hong Kong affiliate has compiled the SOLAGEO online catalogue of renewable energy products and accessories specifically for developing regions, from Solar Chargers to Hybrid Energy solutions.

Access our Product Catalogue

Enabling more innovative and appropriate product development for developing regions

Pie chart

Recognizing this discrepancy various individuals, academic institutions, such as MIT's D-lab, and other organizations, such as IDEO, have focused efforts on solutions for the majority. While innovative solutions can be conceptualized, scaling up the manufacturing of those solutions in a commercially viable manner and providing access to the manufactured solutions to a global clientele are further challenges, which TWB's Hong Kong affiliate also addresses.

TWB Case Study:  The Mosquitito – a story of mosquitoes and mosquito traps


There are many products in local markets world-wide that capture all types of bugs, often using light to attract the bugs at night, and then trapping or zapping them into submission. Many of these same products claim to capture mosquitoes, and some do almost by accident.  More sophisticated traps also exist that are designed to specifically target mosquitoes, and utilize attractants or the release of CO2 that are more effective than just light in attracting certain species of mosquitoes.  Many of these products are manufactured in China and designed, costed and developed for developed economy markets.  They can be found in many retail outlets in these markets.  Very few of the more sophisticated traps are marketed in developing regions of the world, where the majority of the world’s population, and presumably mosquitoes, as well, reside.  Mosquitoes couldn’t have planned it any better!

The situation with mosquito traps is not isolated. 

Unfortunately for mosquitoes, Trade Without Borders is striving to change this trend.  We specifically focus on product solutions targeted at developing regions of the world.  In addition, we aim to collaborate with inventors of “disruptive inventions” and assist them in scaling up manufacturing and distribution of their unique innovations. 

As for mosquitoes, we are helping to develop a solar-powered version of a mosquito trap that has been tested in developing regions and shown to reduce the incidence of vectors that transmit diseases common in many developing regions.  MOSQUITOES BEWARE!

Extending Global Supply Chain Management to the Bottom of the Pyramid

Trade Without Borders leverages modern information and communications technology together with the expertise of its Hong Kong affiliate in global shipping and logistics to create effective, streamlined and cost-effective supply chain solutions to, from and between developing regions of the world.

Global supply chains begin with the manufacture of goods at a factory and ends with successful delivery and service to the product's end user. In between there are a myriad details to pay attention to. Moreover, in developing regions, the supply chain dynamics can vary considerably. Customs rules and regulations may change more frequently, gaps in infrastructure can create obstacles, local transport options may be more limited, and the quantities being procured and delivered may fluctuate depending on a number of factors. There are fewer mega retail outlets, but instead millions of small family-owned shops, markets, and street vendors. In many villages or slum communities, it may just be an individual entrepreneur who provides access to essential products and services.

We are just beginning our work in building efficient supply chain infrastructures that extend to the very Bottom of the Pyramid, or the last mile in developing regions. We are doing so, however, with a dedicated focus. As with designing and developing products specifically for developing regions, we aim to integrate the best practices in global supply chain management, but adapt these specifically for the challenges in developing regions. This includes being able to efficiently aggregate small, disparate product needs from local communities into large quantity order requests to manufacturers creating economies of scale in the entire supply chain.

Product diagram

It also includes building a global network of local, inclusive distribution partners one country at a time.  To truly create sustainable development requires sustainable product distribution, service and support to the very bottom of the pyramid or the last mile in local supply chains.  We focus on establishing, nurturing and developing local, inclusive distribution partnerships with like-minded organizations focused on creating positive social and economic impact through responsible and inclusive trade. 

Ultimately, it entails leveraging the best information and communications technologies to create maximum efficiencies in all supply chain processes.

Assessing our Social Impact

As a Social Enterprise, our primary mission is creating sustainable social and economic value within local communities in developing regions.

Social Impact

We focus on creating Social Value in our work within communities at the Base of the Pyramid.  For us, that ultimately means improving the quality of life for individuals within those communities.  There are 2 basic ways we aim to create Social Value:

      • Establishing a conduit whereby academicians can gain access to communities at the Base of the Pyramid in order to better understand their daily livelihood needs while creating an outlet for individuals in those communities to better communicate about their needs.
      • With a better understanding of daily livelihood needs within communities at the Base of the Pyramid, we then strive to provide access to appropriate products that can improve daily livelihoods. An example would be the Mosquitito, a low-power, electric mosquito trap that has been scientifically proven to reduce the incidence of vector borne diseases such as Dengue Fever.

Quantifying social benefits is far from an exact science.  At TWB, we utilize the Grameen Foundation's Progress out of Poverty Index to help us quantify poverty levels in local communities.  To learn more click here.

Economic Impact

Creating Economic Value in local communities is a core focus of our work.  There are a variety of ways we create such value.

      • We support the expansion of income generating opportunities within local communities and the supply of products through local, inclusive distribution partners. We also support the engagement of local manufacturing enterprises, and aim to provide education and training support, as well, to help further develop their manufacturing capacities.
      • We help provide access to products that enhance economic activities.  A simple example is a Solar Mobile Phone Charger that keeps mobile phones in off-grid locations operational, thereby helping to maintain a communications link between individuals in those communities and family, friends, as well as business associates in far off places. Village store owners can more likely check on the availability of new supplies, while farmers can better access key information on market prices for their produce.

To better assess the economic impact of our activities in local communities, we utilize a tool called the Impact Assessment Framework developed by Ted London at the William Davidson Institute of the University of Michigan.  To learn more click here.

Environmental Impact

TWB's initial focus is on the Environment Sector.  Every single product supplied by our affiliates provides environmental benefits that help to lower the carbon footprint in local communities at the Base of the Pyramid and beyond. 

    • LED lighting products decrease electricity demand by 50-80%
    • Hybrid Energy solutions can decrease diesel fuel consumption by as much as 70%. 

For a more detailed understanding of the social and economic impact of our product offerings, click on the links below.