The project:Light Up Chitwan, Nepal
Technologies used:d.light S2 Solar lantern, d.light S20 Solar lantern, d.light S300 Solar lantern, Sun King Home 60 Solar Home System
The communities of Chitwan district, Nepal, have limited access to electricity and often experience up to 18 hours of rolling power cuts every day. The kerosene lamps, candles and torch currently in use are unsafe, polluting and are a burden on household budgets.
Empower Generation, our local partner, has identified a way to provide an affordable and clean lighting solution to the Chitwan district. They are empowering a female entrepreneur to lead a team of women who will promote and sell clean solar technologies in their communities. The lead entrepreneur is Dipika Silwal who comes from poor, marginalised family and has had limited access to education and employment. Dipika lives with her three younger sisters who depend on her for a living.
We worked with our local partner, Empower Generation, who identified local women in Chitwan, Nepal to become clean energy entrepreneurs. Originally, Empower Generation identified Dipika as the entrepreneur so that she could start this business to help her sister, Sabitra. Sabitra had an injury in her leg that restricted her movement and ability to work.
At first, Dipika and Sabitra ran their company together and both attended training programs offered by Empower Generation. However, as time went by it was clear that it was Sabitra who was visiting various communities to promote products and recruiting sales agents for Dipika Enterprises.
Her dedication towards the business made Empower Generation decide that Sabitra should be the sole entrepreneur of Dipika Enterprises, and Dipika could work to support her as a sales agent. From August 2016, Sabitra started representing Dipika Enterprises in Empower Generation’s network.
Sabitra leads her sales agents to visit households door to door to sell products. During a typical visit Sabitra and her sales agents give a demo of their products. If a customer is not interested, they leave their business card and promotional fliers with the customer so that if they change their mind, they can contact them for a sale. Dipika and Sabitra’s other family members also help by selling products at their places of work. Dipika works at a furniture store, where she sells solar products.
Empower Generation also conducted six sales promotion programs with Dipika Enterprises from March to December 2016. During these programs, Empower Generation's staff, entrepreneurs and sales agents gave a presentation about solar technology, the business and Empower Generation’s women’s empowerment model.
Several challenges that our local partner tackled were:
- When Sabitra is 19 years old, she was paralysed from the waist down. After therapy, she is now able to able to walk without any support but it is still hard for her to walk, unsupported, for a long distance. This restricts Sabitra’s ability to properly travel for sales visits. To help her, Dipika takes Sabitra by bicycle for sales visits or drops her at the bus station. Dipika also frequently accompanies Sabitra on long sales visits to support her.
- Sabitra and Dipika come from a very poor family with low social status. Because of this, people tend to doubt the quality of the products that she sells. Empower Generation helped Sabitra by assisting with a sales promotion program in her community, to make it clear that Sabitra is part of a larger business network across the country. Empower Generation also recruited a community leader to publicly support Sabitra’s business.
- Some potential customers were reluctant to purchase the solar light from Sabitra because of a perceived warranty issue. They were worried that they would not be able to claim the warranty of the solar light once Sabitra gets married and moves into her husband's community. To solve this, Sabitra explained to her customers that the product supplier is based in Chitwan district and if there’s ever a problem they can go directly to them.
- Sabitra offered a higher quality solar light which is more expensive compared to the already available solar lights in the market. To tackle this, Empower Generation trained Sabitra on how to promote her products, including showing the benefits and the high quality of her solar lights compared to what's available on the market. She’s also been trained to calculate how much money that someone can save after using the solar light to show customers that it is a good long-term investment. Moreover, she provided examples and contact information of the satisfied customers who can recommend the products.