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Solar "business in a box" kit

Our idea is a solar pay-as-you-go “business in a box” kit for Tanzania. It is an income-producing asset for an entrepreneur (just like a chicken or goat) but it is also an affordable way to buy light (and mobile phone charging) for an end-consumer. The kit consists of 2 “hockey puck” rechargeable lights/phone chargers and 1 solar panel as well as instructional information and marketing materials. We call it the “hockey puck” because it looks like a hockey puck (we’re Canadian) and contains a rechargeable battery, LED, USB phone charger. We will sell this kit to entrepreneurs who then earn income from selling recharges and an end-user now has access to clean, affordable light and energy. It's a win win.

Photo of Adam Camenzuli
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Here is how it works:
1. An entrepreneur buys the solar "business in a box" (2 hockey puck lights + 1 solar panel) for $25-30.

2. The entrepreneur sells one hockey puck light/phone charger to an end-user (let's call her Alice) for $3. Alice takes the hockey puck home, she can light her house, her children can study and she can charge her mobile phone.

3. When it's empty, she brings it back to the entrepreneur and swaps it out for the charged hockey puck (that the entrepreneur charged with the solar panel) and she pays $0.30, which is what she would otherwise spend on kerosene to light her home. 

What community does this idea benefit and who are the main players?

Social: Lack of light at night restricts children’s study hours. Toxic fumes cause death. KARIBU offers children the opportunity to study at night, the family to charge their mobile phone, and eliminates toxic kerosene fumes. Environmental: The use of kerosene emits millions of tons of CO2 / year and every KARIBU solar lamp sold reduces CO2 emissions by an estimated 100kg / year. Economic: Families waste 90+ USD every year on fuel and lack of light restricts local entrepreneurs. KARIBU saves money and increases working hours for small businesses. With KARIBU, families can afford solar lighting/mobile phone charging with the benefits above. For small shops, they now have a profitable business and no longer spend money on kerosene – sunshine is free. Furthermore, money stays in the community (that formerly went to buy kerosene) and it spurs local economic development.

How does your idea specifically help your community rapidly transition to renewables?

Solar in Africa comes with a significant up ­front cost, which is not affordable for rural populations (and it's hard to get it to them). Our approach aligns the cash flow for solar lighting and mobile phone charging with that of kerosene–making it affordable. We leverage the existing sales channel for end­-users like Alice (the small shop network) and sell them a “businesses in a box” which allows them to become profitable in a few months. In contrast to the traditional manufacturer → retailer → customer model, KARIBU provides a continuous income stream (and more jobs) for entrepreneurs vs. a one-­off sale. This approach is very conducive to rural communities that are far from towns or the electric grid and that have no mobile network reception (and it doesn't have to be constructed/nailed to a roof). Given the relatively low up ­front cost for small shops, and short payback period, the model is very scalable.

What early, lightweight experiment can you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

We are in the early stages of launching these new kits. We ran a small pilot project in Moshi, Kilimanjaro with great success. Here are some videos with one of the entrepreneurs, Good Hope:

What skills, input or guidance are you keen to connect with from the OpenIDEO community to help you build out or refine your idea further?

We are looking for help in making the product very high quality and also cost effective.

Please indicate which type of energy is most relevant to this post:

  • Solar

This idea emerged from:

  • A Group Brainstorm


Join the conversation:

Photo of Meena Kadri

Awesome stuff, guys – we're loving the business modelling! Could be good to visualise the user journey by filling out and uploading a User Experience Map: So if you were selected for our Refinement phase (see our lowdown: what aspect of your initiative would especially want to focus on, given your product is already in development? What lightweight experiments would support that focus? We're excited to learn more...

Photo of Adam Camenzuli

Thanks Meena. We would focus on the user experience mostly and what customers really want and how we can build upon our Minimum Viable Product (MVP). We have already lined up a focus group to do some in-depth testing of the product to see what people really like. That, in combination with our sales/feedback process should allow us to learn what people like and what other features we can add to make the product that much more valuable to customers.

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