The project:Start Up Tech Sales in Siem Reap, Cambodia
Technologies used:d.light S300 Solar lantern, d.light D20 Solar Home System, Prime Square Fuelwood Biomass Cookstove
Families living in Prasat Bakogn and Pouk districts in Siem Reap, Cambodia, spend a lot of time collecting firewood for their traditional cookstoves. Each family spends about eight hours a week collecting fuelwood from nearby forest or fields. Those who don’t live near the forest spend around US$12/month to buy firewood. Firewood collection is threatening the forest and wildlife.
Almost half of the population in rural areas of Cambodia have limited access to electricity. Kerosene lanterns and battery boxes are commonly used, but kerosene lanterns produce dim light and battery boxes need to be charged, which involves taking them to a recharging station and paying a fee.
CTO made the products available to customers through community meetings. They offered a payment plan where customers could pay over three instalments over a period of six months. They later extended the period to eight months as the farmers were slow to make their payments.
CTO found pricing an insurmountable challenge and by May 2017, 15 months after the technology was received, they had sold less than a quarter of the products they received.
When CTO and Kopernik first partnered on this project, CTO’s feasibility study did not show a competitor selling a similar stove product. Not long after the technology arrived, they learnt that in fact a competitor was selling the exact same stove at half the price that they could offer. Further investigation showed that a bulk purchase of the stoves and a subsidy had collapsed our market for the same cookstove product in Siem Reap.
For the solar lights, the lower quality, cheaper competitors available in the local markets were preferred by the Cambodian consumers. They were being sold in the market, this was a recognizable business transaction and they were comfortable returning the product or getting it fixed. For the solar lights sold by CTO, the customers felt that this was not a business transaction and had the misperception that they could not get the product replaced if it was faulty. They had the mentality that a NGO should not be selling products but should be giving them away for free. CTO had a lot of trouble collecting the instalment payments as farmers felt that they did not have an obligation to pay. They felt that a charity would just give away the product for free eventually and would be, “kind enough to not take the technology back”, even if they didn’t pay for it.