"You could be the king, but watch the queen conquer. - Nicki Minaj"
Originally from a small town in Kentucky, usually in Boston for university, and presently in Tanzania for an internship at a solar energy company. I'm studying computer science and computer engineering, starting year 4 of 5 in Fall 2018. I love to travel, cook, read, and bike. Ask me about my tattoo for a book recommendation and lesson in Kentucky mixology!
Hi Tyler, I think these are definitely important considerations, thank you for taking the time to write all this out!
I think you're right in that there's definitely a portion of the market in Tanzania who are better suited for the less expensive, lower-quality systems. Many people are either more comfortable or able to make this up-front cash payment than they would be paying a greater amount in monthly installments. While these people without as steady of an income may be better suited for cash payments and replacing every few years, there's a growing 'middle-class' population in Tanzania. We've found that there are many people who have the steady income and financial stability that enables them to buy land outside of the cities and beyond the reach of the grid.
Our products and services are designed to suit this type of customer - not exactly last mile or bottom of the pyramid, but households that have already established a level of financial stability. In Tanzania, many people who work through informal employment or self-employment don't have the formal employment or bank history to qualify for a loan from a traditional lender - even if they're doing well in all practical matters. Customers of this profile can benefit from our services, which will enable them to finance a high-quality energy system. We've found that many people are willing to take on the loan to access a higher quality product than they would get if they had to pay up-front. By the customer taking on this loan and entrusting us with their business, we're able to provide dedicated service and maintenance that doesn't typically come with the lower-quality systems.
To address our customers' changing energy needs and desires, we invest a lot of time in talking to our customers and ensuring that they're satisfied with their energy system. We're able to perform professional services in case anything isn't working properly, and we prioritize our existing customers' requests for upgrades. For example, if a customer starts with an 80 watt DC system, later on, we can upgrade their panel, battery, and TV or add an inverter to suit their needs. This allows for affordable upgrades with less electronic waste than complete system replacements.
Later on, we hope to create a whole new aspect of our business in which we offer additional loans to our customers using the solar home system as collateral. We see a great potential for further empowering our customers to make investments in their families and futures, and the system of using the solar energy system as collateral is more humane than asking them to risk losing the house. This is also an aspect that will only be possible with a high-quality system - the collateral has to have enough value to support a worthwhile loan. :)
TL;DR Our products and services aren't for everyone, but there's a middle-class market that it serves very well by recognizing informal financial stability and giving them the option of using a loan to access a better product.