One Degree Solar - • We produce affordable solar energy products and scalable SMS-based solutions for after-sales support.

One Degree Solar - • We produce affordable solar energy products and scalable SMS-based solutions for after-sales support.

Liberia
Organization type: 
for profit
Budget: 
$50,000 - $100,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

We change the way retail is conducted in developing markets. Imagine an Apple Store in rural Kenya, but for solar energy products and accessories. At this location, a customer could learn how solar technology improves lives, buy products and accessories they desire, and receive support in person whenever needed. As an additional convenience, we are building an after-sales network via SMS so users can receive instant support, regardless of location. Many problems with solar result from human error, and a simple troubleshooting conversation by phone is far more effective and timely than a traveling technician. By providing exceptional customer service along with high-quality products, end-users will experience the many benefits from solar energy that they could not fully access previously.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

In our initial target market of Sub-Saharan Africa, the rate of electrification is as low as 30%. African consumers collectively spend $17 billion per year on fuel-based lighting alone, and by 2014 over 400 million. In Kenya for example, 83% of households use kerosene as their main source of energy. Only 10% of Kenyan traders who have businesses are connected to the electric grid. There are over 400 million cell phone users in Africa without light. In addition, the World Bank Light Africa report estimates that up to 11% of income is spent on charging phones. With Africa’s cell phone penetration is currently 52%, these households face recurring expenses on energy costs ranging between 5~65% of their monthly expenditures, presenting a significant market opportunity for alternative energy sources. With Africa’s current population growth, in the next 20 years it is expected to rapidly surpass Asia to become the largest un-electrified market in the world. Our direct customers are national importers and distributors that control the flow of goods in Liberia, Kenya and other Sub-Saharan countries. Microfinance organizations are playing an important part in the distribution process by providing access to financing for vendors and end-users. We also are in talks to co- branding and do product bundling with radio networks and cell phone providers that already have an established distribution, advertising, and adoption.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

The services we provide such as SMS for warranty registration and ongoing, direct customer contact has been used in China but not in Africa. None of our competitors use this service model and instead send technicians out for repairs or require customers to go back to a store. End users often have to travel for days (many walking) to reach the nearest technician when. most of the technical problems they face can be resolved remotely by phone. Also, our unique customer database allows for surveys, direct contact with customers geographic sale and repair tracking. Our products currently includes solar home systems that are designed to charge phones, power fans and radios. We are also patenting a solar lantern with a built in radio and phone charger. It is the first high quality multifunction option in our market. Our solar home systems can be used with a special cable that can convert it into a phone charging stations as each ligh port can base used to charge phones as well. All of our devices have USB hubs that enable it to power multiple devices at once.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

ODS designs, manufactures and field-test products. We work with a variety of partners that have built trusted relationships in their respective countries and communities. These partners, including NGOs, small businesses, and large companies with experience selling consumer goods. They have established distribution channels in urban, peri-urban, and rural areas. We sell to organizations that are able to not only sell but promote our unique after-care services and inform end users about the product warranty. We provide troubleshooting and sales materials to our retailers and vendors as well as a technical repair guides and training to primary partners we have within each country. We require that end-users send an SMS to register their warranty of a newly purchased product. This registration includes the individual’s name, product serial number, sales location, and unique sales person identification. ODS replies with basic usage information and encourages users to call or text if they have questions. We will use individual customer information to form a database that can be used for a variety of purposes such as surveys, promotions, feedback, coupon codes, and to announce new products. It also allows for direct contact with our end-users worldwide, to geographically record sales, and identify highest performing sellers. In addition, it allows for us to monitor web-based servers that record all support requests, provide access to each partner responsible for trouble shooting, and ensure that all uses are addressed, triaged and resolved.
About You
Organization:
One Degree Solar
About You
First Name

Gaurav

Last Name

Manchanda

About Your Organization
Organization Name

One Degree Solar

Organization Country

, PA, Delaware County

Country where this project is creating social impact
How long has your organization been operating?

1‐5 years

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Innovation
What stage is your project in?

Operating for 1‐5 years

Share the story of the founder and what inspired the founder to start this project

Gaurav Manchanda was born in India and moved to the United States at a young age. He visited India regularly and became fascinated by the technology disparities between the two countries. He would often bring back basic technology products for his family members during his trips to India. It was then that he reached a realization that technology could be used to greatly enhance daily life and solve basic problems in the developing world. He found a program at Tulane University where he could study International Development and Technology Transfer. He focused on bringing technologies and processes from boiling water to solar panels to communities in need in countries such as Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. He worked closely with organization such as USAID to write caste studies for solar powered health clinics for example.
He eventually went on to work for the Clinton Foundation in Liberia where he managed to raise over six million dollars for renewable energy projects intended for the Ministry of Health. However he quickly found that the poor infrastructure in Liberia such as muddy roads for most of the year made installing and maintaining such technologies virtually impossible. Seeing kids often sitting outside of his at night to study under his security light, Gaurav was determined to find another solution. He worked with local Liberians to identify three based needs, light, mobile phone charging and radio, Gaurav soon left the Clinton Foundation and traveled to China to develop a range of affordable and durable products to meet such basic needs.

Social Impact
Please describe how your project has been successful and how that success is measured

One Degree Solar is in its first year of sales and has already received initial sales success in Liberia, Kenya and Zambia. We have distribution partners in Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania as well. In each geographic region we use SMS and text campaigns to offer promotions to existing and potential customers.

We track the number of households reached by our products, and have a particular emphasis on building strong customer satisfaction. We do this through building a support network for product maintenance and support. For example we offer incentives to ODS dealers to encourage end users to register their products. We also have metrics in place to track sales and rewards individual sellers who meet and exceed target sales. In addition current customers are awarded airtime or accessory discounts for new customer referrals.

We measure impact in terms of households served (based on units sold), reduction of household kerosene consumption after purchase (tracked via SMS surveys) and percentage of sales in off-grid regions based on sales volume of rural/off-grid retailers. Bases on projected sales volumes and estimating the each unit sold will decrease kerosene use in one household by 50%, ODS expects to save over 40 million liters of kerosene and prevents 100,000 tons of CO2 from being discharged by 2015.

How many people have been impacted by your project?

1,001- 10,000

How many people could be impacted by your project in the next three years?

More than 10,000

How will your project evolve over the next three years?

• Over the next three years our expansion plans consist of private sales in Liberia, Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, Zambia, and Tanzania as well as entry into several other countries within the next three years. We continue to diversify our product line which currently includes desk lamps, lanterns, and solar home systems that give users access to efficient lighting, as well as the ability to use and charge luxury items such as cell phones, radios, and dvd players. Our initial products target a demographic who used our products to meet the basic needs of lights phone charging and radios. We plan to continue to evolve our products to also power higher power items such as televisions.

Sustainability
What barriers might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?

• There are several challenges to overcome for future success, including building a strong distribution network and meeting demand while maintaining high quality products.In order to build our distribution network, we have partnered with local non-profit organizations and importers to utilize pre-established networks with the largest reach possible. We have worked closely with them to build and regulate our after sales support system. This support system is a mobile based service network that will give customers direct access to help with troubleshooting and warranty service, and is the only system of its kind to be introduced in Africa. Such a system sets us apart from competitors and will create a feedback loop that allows us to better build customer satisfaction and brand loyalty while monitoring the uses of our products and how they fulfill the changing needs of our customers. On the manufacturing side, we have worked closely with Chinese companies to build a system that meets all of our requirements with the highest quality materials available, with frequent quality control checks throughout product shipments. In addition we are also providing incentives to local partners to develop a battery recyling program.

Tell us about your partnerships

Currently we are partnered with SCODE in Kenya, which is an award winning community development non-profit organization focused on the adoption of cleaner energy technology. They act as a distribution hub for eastern Africa, and also have a small retail network of their own for sales. In Liberia we are also partnering with local importers with retail distribution networks as well as the women’s group Charity Prayer Band who are currently selling our systems and have a track record of selling consumer goods to communities. We are also in discussion with utility companies that are interested in expanding into Africans markets as well telecom providers in Africa and Asia.

Explain your selections

Thus far, friends and family as well as two individual investors have provided seed funding for the company. This funding has provided initial capital to build and design three products, as well as begin small scale sales in Kenya to get feedback from customers on possible product improvements. Our product is also supported indirectly through regional businesses and NGO's that we partner with in for a distribution network and funding for inventory. With their involvement, we have been able to tap low cost channels in the supply chain that allow us to provide customers the product to them cheaper and easier.

How do you plan to strengthen your project in the next three years?

Over the next three years, One Degree Solar plans to reach scale in it's products in order to meet the high level of demand for clean energy products. We currently have three product lines and are continuing to innovate. We are using customer feedback to continue to innovate and improve our current product design. We are also improving our team to include more product designers as well as bringing on prestigious advisory board members who are experts in the field. Not only are we focusing on quality products but also working on leasing systems and finding innovative ways for a variety of end users to purchase our products. We are continuing to reinvest our profits back into the business. We are also raising money from individual donors and investors. .

Challenges
Which barriers to employment does your innovation address?
Please select up to three in order of relevancy to your project.

PRIMARY

SECONDARY

Restrictive cultural norms

TERTIARY

Other (Specify Below)

Please describe how your innovation specifically tackles the barriers listed above.

Other: Health and Safety
Our products enable users to light their homes after sunset. Our products are also highly influential for students so that they can study later and perform better in school. The cultural norms of today, though more out of necessity than demand, use kerosene for their lighting needs because it's the most accessible fuel in the area. Using items such as kerosene lamps to light a home is cripplingly expensive for consumers as well as small businesses and can eat up 40% of their yearly income as well as toxic and hazardous. Consumers may be ailed from the noxious fumes or badly burned, and be unable to work because of their poor health. Women cooking in Africa for example use our fan accessories to blow hazardous fumes away.

Are you trying to scale your organization or initiative?
If yes, please check up to three potential pathways in order of relevancy to you.

PRIMARY

Grown geographic reach: Multi-country

SECONDARY

Enhanced existing impact through addition of complementary services

TERTIARY

Leveraged technology

Please describe which of your growth activities are current or planned for the immediate future.

The most effective way to build the impact of One Degree Solar is to reach a larger segment of the under-served population. With better and cheaper access to lighting and solar power, people are better able to increase their standard of living. As a compliment to our products, we will offer a warranty service that allows product owners to easily repair their product in the event of damage. If the product is out of warranty our after care system allow it to be fixed for a cost that is far below the cost of buying a replacement unit. Our aim is to leverage advances in technology to provide the highest quality product for the most affordable price possible to our customers.

Do you collaborate with any of the following: (Check all that apply)

Government, NGOs/Nonprofits, For profit companies, Academia/universities.

If yes, how have these collaborations helped your innovation to succeed?

Our collaboration with regional NGO’s has gives us the ability to reach customers quickly and cheaply by using their distribution network, warehousing and expertise. We also plan to engage with universities in Africa and create a fellows program to ensure that we have local expertise and insight. Many for profit companies are finding that working with us stretches the impact of their dollar beyond what they could donate to local charities in the region.

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