Project Report:
Start Up Tech Sales in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Jul 2017

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
Local partner:
The problem: 

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.

How we helped: 

We worked with our local partner, Community Translation Organization (CTO), to connect Prime Square Fuelwood Biomass Cookstoves, d.light S300 solar lights and d.light D20 solar home systems to families in Siem Reap Province.

What people are saying: 

ONE

"The prime cookstove is good for my small business as I can cook with less fuel and the fire is easy to make. The cookstove is light. However since wood is still considered to be plentiful, most people will still use a traditional open fire. They just take it for granted without consideration for the environmental impact and time saving. For small businesses like mine, that are food related and require cooking, there is value in using the prime cookstove."- Mrs. Hang Siem, Pouk Distirct, Siem Reap province. 

TWO

"I bought the d.light S300 solar light to replace my battery-based night light in my home. This has saved me a lot of time and a small amount of money that I used to spend on charging my battery. My children have better light for night education at home. In general I think the d.light S300 is good, however, one of the bulbs is not working for no reason and no one can fix it. The weak point is that it is impossible to have a replacement bulb if it malfunctions or breaks, unlike the other Chinese solar panels available at the market. These are cheaper and easily fixed with spare parts.” – Mrs. Mean Malay, customer in Keo Poar commune, Pouk District, Siem Reap Province

THREE

“I use the prime cookstove for my teashop. I didn’t see much impact in terms of time savings when compared to the open fire. However, one impact I felt was that there is less smoke which keeps my shop more clean from smoke odour. I also use less wood. There is a lot of choice now for people in terms of different cooking stoves so I think it will be hard to convince all people to use it." - Mrs. Luth Meuth, local teashop owner in Roka Yea village, Pouk District, Siem Reap Province.

Reaching the last mile: 

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.

The challenges: 

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.

Technology feedback
Community Translation Organisation
Community Translation Organisation

Start Up Tech Sales in Siem Reap, Cambodia

2