As the Managing Director of Emerging Markets at BioLite, I develop end-to-end commercialization strategy for BioLite's HomeStove in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. This work includes launching and overseeing large-scale pilots, designing our distribution partnership model, and collaborating closely with the product development team to ensure delivery of product to market.
Your initiative sounds very interesting, and seems like a great context for testing our stove.
We’d be happy to set up a call to further discuss specifics around pricing, timeline for demonstration, and mutual goals. If you’re still interested, please contact my colleague, Matthew Goldberg, who heads up our partnership development efforts, at email@example.com.
BioLite has discussed the possibility of expanding our current collaboration with Kiva (who currently supports one of our microfinance partners, Juhudi Kilimo, on HomeStove loans) to a direct partnership between BioLite and Kiva. In the past, BioLite products financed through Kiva lenders were funded within 0.33 days on average, which is 23 times faster than the average loan in Kiva.org. BioLite would partner directly with Kiva through their crowdvetting project to access no interest debt financing.
Glad to share our responses to the above questions below:
1.) Currently, how do the women in Uganda find out about the product demonstrations?
Across our operations in Uganda, Kenya, and India, BioLite primarily engages with individuals who are members of microfinance institutions (MFI). MFI members co-guarantee their loans and support each other through loan groups, which have oversight from loan officers. Members regularly meet with their loan groups to arrange payments, track their finances , and learn about new products and services. BioLite directly reaches these members by embedding our own field agents within MFI branches. Our field agents travel with MFI partner loan officers to demonstrate the HomeStove for the group members in their villages. After the demonstration, interested customers can sign up for finance programs on the spot to make purchasing the HomeStove immediately achievable. For those customers that purchase the stove, BioLite provides customer trainings and comprehensive after-sales service.
More info on how we train and support our rural customers through MFI channels can be found here: https://medium.com/the-road-to-impact/the-path-to-ownership-4038b6f45742
2.) Would you be able to tell me more about the type of loan repayment plans recipients are on and the consequences for default?
The repayment plan for the HomeStove is generally established by our MFI partners. As an example, our partner Juhudi Kilimo, reports that the overall repayment rate across their portfolio averages 95 percent, which is typical among HomeStove users in our markets. This robust repayment rate is facilitated by the income-savings provided by the HomeStove – customers typically recoup the cost of the product in just six to eight months via fuel and electricity savings. In addition, BioLite’s emphasis on after-sales service ensures that product issues get resolved and that customers are satisfied with the HomeStove, which helps to reduce the risk of customer default. In the rare case of default, our MFI partners retain the option to repossess the product as collateral, however, to our knowledge, this has so far not occurred with the HomeStove.
3.) Would you tell me more about the mass marketing campaign? Are there any new approaches you are keen to experiment with?
The goal of the proposed mass marketing campaign would be to both highlight the value proposition of the HomeStove (i.e. the health, economic, and environmental impact), and raise awareness about the hazards of open-fire cooking. As currently conceived, the campaign would center on a 5-part series of customer stories/profiles over radio. These stories would feature existing HomeStove customers speaking about their experience with the stove, and the various benefits that it provides, including smoke reduction, fuel efficiency, lighting, and mobile-phone charging. We would support this radio campaign with targeted print and SMS marketing, which would draw attention to our customer stories on the radio. On a related note, BioLite (in conjunction with Acumen’s lean data team) is currently experimenting with conducting customer usage surveys via SMS to supplement our normal practice of reaching customers via our call centers. The use of SMS as a broad-based marketing and data collection tool is particularly interesting to us as we scale to a larger number of users.
4.) Are there certain types of organisations or organisations working in specific geographies that you are keen to connect to? I noticed that you are keen to collaborate with others in the sector.
Yes, we are definitely interested in establishing new distribution partnerships with credit-enabled organisations as we scale. At present, we are specifically interested in connecting with partners in our Kenya market. In Kenya, our current partners include: One Acre Fund, Juhudi Kilimo, and Equity Bank. If you see alignment with any organisations within IDEO’s network, we would be very interested in learning more about their model, and discussing the possibility of partnership.