For development practitioners in the field, one great challenge is finding suitable and timely emergency aid supplies that they can then dispatch to the areas of need. E-commerce platform the Level Market is addressing the issue head-on, thus helping aid organisations focus more of their time on delivering emergency supplies, rather than searching for them.
Born out of the frustration involved in finding not just suitable equipment for dealing with emergency situations in calamity-afflicted areas, but also accessible information about its quality and pricing, The Level Market is a new e-commerce platform that pools together suppliers of life-saving emergency products, and connects them with the development industry practitioners who are on the look out for such products.
The portal is an online marketplace for the humanitarian sector. Aid officials can do a quick search for particular item they need (think tents, water filters, toiletries, stoves and more) or browse by category (cooking utensils, medical and wellness, water and sanitation, shelter supplies, power, communication, lighting). Product listings include all relevant information, such as specifications, supplier details, delivery, certifications and more. The site also has a comparison tool, allowing users to see how certain products stack up against similar items.
The Level Market seeks to freshen up what founder Stephanie Cox (see video below) calls 'an archaic and opaque industry' and to bring together the latest innovation in product offer and the best available technology in procurement practices, stating:
“Our aim is to make buying a water filter for a child in Ethiopia as easy as buying a book on Amazon.”
Much like other e-commerce sites, its for-profit business model is based on subscription and transaction fees. As the platform matures and expands, it will be great to see more local suppliers featured: that is suppliers based in those very countries where emergencies may arise. This would be particularly important for developing countries, so that they too can reap the economic benefits, and the development opportunities, of e-commerce, while being able to use their country-specific knowledge to offer solutions to what are often very contextual issues.
Nevertheless, in facilitating the sourcing and the deployment of emergency and life-saving equipment to disaster areas, The Level Market is a great e-commerce site with a huge social-impact potential.
Here's founder Stephanie Cox explaining how the idea came about: