John Steininger (August 22, 2013)
We wound up our trial in Bududa, Uganda the week before last (8/9/13). We brought 100 lamps and sold them in 4 equal, weekly installments of about $4 each, for a total price of $16. We sold out the stock in a few days and could have sold 3X what we brought. We ran the trial for 5 weeks. We collected and banked 91% of the combined total possible payments with no effort in collections. Customers seemed delighted with both the product and the financing scheme. Our agent was a teacher at the local primary school who we gifted a Sun King Pro at the end of the trial as his only compensation. He was happy.
Our learnings were that if you lower the barrier to taking a lamp home, you quickly solve the awareness problem about solar lighting through word of mouth. The school is a great social network of parents who exchange information freely and were excited to show off their lamps. Teachers are persons of authority in the village, so by selling through the school the lamps acquire legitimacy through association with the school and customers loose face in front of that authority if lamp payments are not made.
There is no question in my mind now that this PAYG school sale model works and that you could easily introduce other feature lamps (phone charging lamps, etc.) into the stream and sell them as well.
I am full speed ahead on putting both a PAYG student study lamp and PAYG phone charging feature lamp into production and providing the inventory so that NGOs and for-profit distributors can activate this model in other school communities with a minimum of risk. I’ll be in volume production of the student study lamp come the 1st of next year. We starting our first pre-production run of a study lamp of our own design next week. The phone charging feature lamp will follow a quarter later.
“I have heard feedback from students and parents about the new solar lamps and what an amazing difference it is for these people. In the first instance, they tackle for us a long held dream – moving away from kerosene candles and lamps to something which provides better light, is safer and better for people’s health and our environment, and that reflects the change we dream about for Uganda. But even more importantly, the design of the partnership through the divilite project reflected our long-term goals for Uganda. The lamps were not given out as a handout, but a valuable product that was purchased to improve the way of life. Those who got it earned it, those who did not have it yearned for it…”
John Wanda, founder of Arlington Academy of Hope in Uganda Sept, 17, 2013