In the late Qing Dynasty, kerosene lamps were introduced to China. For a long time, this was the lighting tool for most of us. Life is now very different, and electric lights have become a necessity for us. However, there are many areas around the world that are not powered, and they are still using this ancient lighting tool.
Sam had witnessed a burn caused by a kerosene lamp, and he and his friend Ned decided to improve the situation. They have developed a variety of solar lights to study a variety of business models designed to make life safer and make the future a better place. Today, more than 80 million people have benefited, their lives have improved, and their income has risen.
In a small room at Stanford Business School, the darkness of the fingers is filled with the smell of kerosene and a little earthy fragrance.
This was the scene of the road show of D.light’s founders Sam Goldman and Ned Tozun, and there was a room for investors. They have spent a lot of time creating such a scene in order to reproduce the daily life of those areas where kerosene lamps are used.
At that time, the business plans of these two young men had not yet formed, but they had already taken the investors out of it. What makes them so eager to act?
When the midnight falls, many cities are still bright and white, and the city center is even bustling with lights everywhere. However, more areas far from the city, in the mountains, in the wilderness, there is no electricity, people are faintly lit by a kerosene lamp, falling asleep early in the room.
However, the light of the kerosene lamp is not good for vision, and there is a strong oily taste, which can be dangerous if it is inadvertent.
In 2004, when Sam Goldman was a volunteer in Benin, West Africa, he lived in a village called Guinagourou and witnessed a tragedy brought about by kerosene lamps.
A 15-year-old boy accidentally spilled the burning kerosene lamp, and the flame spread over him, his body suffered a third degree burn. The people who heard the news were saddened, and the nearest hospital was 45 kilometers away. All they could do was find herbal medicine, trying to cover the wound and slow down the pain.
Sam is also in the crowd. He is deeply shocked. The LED portable light he brought is only $10, but the local family here has only one kerosene lamp. “People can launch satellites and spacecraft into space, and dangerous kerosene lamps are still in people’s lives.” This thing has long been engraved in his heart.
Before that, he has been to many areas. He has lived in India, Pakistan, Peru, Mauritania and Africa and found that many rural areas lack electricity and can only use kerosene lamps.
why? One is the concept and the other is income.
In the course of the investigation, he found that more than 1 million people died each year from kerosene-induced fires. He knows the helplessness of these people, but this time he does not want to stand by.
In the beginning, he wanted to be a distributor, allowing the lights to be sent to thousands of households in remote areas, but failed, the biggest reason is the price.
For those families, “buying a lamp is as thoughtful as we are buying a car.”
Later, he chose to enter Stanford Business School and decided to develop a high-quality, durable and low-cost product that would truly benefit the people.
At the business school, he met Ned Tozun. Ned had previously reported on the lives of AIDS patients in Malawi in East Africa. The scene there touched him deeply. He always wanted to do something for the bottom people.
So the two boys hit it off.
They started research and development of related technologies early. Soon, the first high-quality, high-quality and cost-effective solar light prototype was born. It can convert sunlight into electricity. The target group is South Asia, Africa and others. Those specific families in remote areas.
But Sam and Ned were not satisfied, so they recruited a lot of people from the unpowered areas, invited them to experience the products, collected opinions, and even the staff personally went to the village house for a night. This gives them a lot of advice on improving the product.
Due to the different needs of people in different regions, they also carefully visited and investigated the districts, carefully designed on-demand, and developed a variety of products.
Lighting is a basic requirement, and in other respects D.light is also designed to be close to the people.
The product life cycle is more than 5 years, with a two-year warranty period, the price is also designed to be close to the people, to achieve higher cost performance; at the same time, D.light employees are stationed near the sales outlets, they will be at any time According to the user’s feedback, go to the scene to solve the problem.
Initially, D.light placed the product on distributors and retailers for sale on the counter. But very quickly, they found a problem: the price of some lights is too high, it is still a burden for many families, they are difficult to quickly raise so much cash.
“The business model of relying solely on cash payments cannot be developed for a long time.” Sam and Ned decided to develop a new business model.
They think: In the United States, you can buy through credit, then, can you provide them with products through credit?
So, Sam and Ned explored a pay-as-you-go model with microfinance, which allows products to be powered by remote control technology, allowing them to purchase by installment. .
In fact, these families do not have bank accounts at all, and the credit history is even more difficult to talk about. This model relies heavily on whether most users will settle the arrears in time.
Obviously, this type of installment based on trust is very risky. But they decided at the time, that’s it.
From the results, the bet they are right, a large number of people began to use their products in this way, the business expanded dramatically, and they were able to continue to raise funds, which is a great choice.
“If you only rely on families who earn less than $5 a day, you can’t reach that size.”
Instead of choosing charity, they let the user choose to buy the product and pay for it with their own efforts. It changes far beyond life, and the perception of these people about life.
“For me, this form makes more sense. The important thing is that we don’t have to solve these problems for them, but help them solve problems by empowering or helping the network,” Sam said.
For those families, kerosene lamps that cause fires can be discarded. In the evening, the room is brighter and more comfortable, and the large amount of kerosene cost saved each year can also be used for investment in other areas.
Even according to a study by D.light, due to the portability and lighting effects of the products, users are able to work better, and the income starts to increase. According to statistics, 56% of users’ revenues have increased by 50%, while others People’s income has also increased.
This is Margaret Muchina, who runs a kiosk in Kenya. In the past, the lack of lighting at night, she had to fight early; now, with the purchase of D.light products, she can operate for a longer period of time, and her income has increased by 30%.
The children’s study and the working environment of the parents have become better; there are chicken farms that have achieved better management through lighting; the fishing grounds no longer have to worry about the kerosene smell will scare the fish, and some people even pass the charging function of the products. Opened a small shop in the local area…
And these gradually wealthy families will slowly drive the inflow of foreign capital, so that this place will slowly prosper and achieve better development.
In our user market, if a person has a complete lighting system, a radio and a TV, this feeling is great, this is in the small mud room, with kerosene lamps, children in the smoky kerosene lamp The feeling of learning is very different. At this time, people’s cognition will increase, and it is also the effect that small cash payments can’t achieve.
Today, D.light is a globally renowned social enterprise that sells products to 62 countries, enrolls 80 million people, reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 19 million tons, and provides solar lighting for 22 million school-age children. Their brand is step by step. Open the door to each family. Globally, they have more than 10,000 retail outlets.
In terms of market choices, they first consider the number of people who cannot use electricity or electricity, and then the areas where they can be commercialized.
Now, they are looking to South Africa and sub-Saharan Africa, where there is a huge population base and rising birth rates, and also began to look to China, North America, Europe, and whether it is necessary to research new green cleaning products, They are still exploring.