Curating Local Knowledge: Experimental Evidence from Small Retailers in Indonesia
CentER Discussion Paper Series Nr. 2020-033
96 Pages Posted: 23 May 2019 Last revised: 15 Dec 2020
Date Written: December 15, 2020
Business practices and performance vary widely across businesses within the same sector. A key outstanding question is why profitable practices do not readily diffuse. We conduct a field experiment among urban retailers in Indonesia to study whether alleviating informational and behavioral frictions can facilitate such diffusion in a cost-effective manner. Through quantitative and qualitative field work, we curate a handbook that associates locally relevant practices with performance, and provides idiosyncratic implementation guidance informed by exemplary local retailers. We complement this handbook with two light-touch interventions to facilitate behavior change. A subset of retailers is invited to a documentary movie screening featuring the paths to success of exemplary peers. Another subset is offered two 30 minute personal visits by a local facilitator. A third group is offered both. Eighteen months later, we find significant impacts on practice adoption when the handbook is coupled with the two behavioral nudges, and up to a 35% increase in profits and 16.7% increase in sales. These findings suggest both informational and behavioral constraints are at play. The types of practices adopted map the performance improvements to efficiency gains rather than other channels. A simple cost-benefit analysis shows such locally relevant knowledge can be codified and scaled successfully at relatively low cost.
Keywords: Business Practices; Small-scale Enterprises; Peer Knowledge; Efficiency Gains; Social Learning
JEL Classification: O12; L26; M20; O31; O33; O35; O17; M50
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation