Marketing GravityLight for the Base of the Pyramid
By Caroline Angus, Associate, On Purpose
GravityLight ticks multiple boxes:
So this should be an easy project then? Just work out a sustainable business model that gets GravityLight to the over 2 billion people relying on biomass for light, and then you’ve got an amazing socio-enviro-enterprise!
Within my first week working on GravityLight at therefore design consultancy I quickly realised it was not all that simple. Distribution would be one of the biggest challenges I faced.
Rather than distracting the team from their core skills of product development and design, or re-inventing the wheel by building a ‘GravityLight’ specific sales network, it was clear that partnerships would be pivotal.
Luckily, I came across an invaluable report by Hystra on ‘Marketing innovative devices for the Base of the Pyramid’ (BoP) that now serves as a gold standard as I explore potential partnerships and distribution strategies. Hystra scoured the world for the top 15 examples to discover their secrets of success. Now I’m eagerly applying these insights to GravityLight’s strategy:
1. “I cannot afford to buy cheap things”: people will forgo a discount to be able to test the products first and confirm the savings it will deliver.
2. Product demos and ‘word of mouth’ are key:
‘Influencers’, ‘Queen Bees’, ‘Avon Ladies’, ‘Evangelists’, mayors, chiefs religious leaders, teachers, elders…
Whatever you call them, whoever they are in each village, these thought leaders, trendsetters and early adopters are invaluable in overcoming scepticism or fear of investing in new, unknown technology.
People are aware of the alternatives to kerosene lamps and understand the products but “the only way to convince most of them is for them to see the product work long enough at their neighbours”. [Upamanyu Patil, CEO Sakhi Retail]
In practice: SolarAid’s Sunny Money works with teachers to promote their solar lights to their pupils and parents; Global BrightLight uses a network of beekeepers in Rwanda to spread the word and Toyola actively rewards their ‘Evangelists’ for drumming up sales.
3. The critical period is after a sale: just as positive word of mouth is significant in a sale, so too is minimising negative word of mouth by identifying dissatisfied customers to ensure they’re satisfied!
Yet surprisingly few have recognized the importance of this; and it is a big undertaking.
4 & 5. High Gross margins are needed to serve the BoP and Avoid sales force churn.
Unsurprisingly, these are interlinked: attractive and reliable wages link to the stability and motivation of sales teams. In addition, high margins are needed to run demonstrations, follow up after a sale and travel to remote communities, and therefore drive sales and salaries.
As well as competitive margins, Hystra also lists close management and a sense of purpose as important in minimising sales force churn.
In practice: Solar Sister stands out for the strong identity it creates among it’s entrepreneurs, all of who “can double their household income with their solar business.”
In summary, having a fantastic idea is just the beginning!
Over the past few months I’ve learnt that GravityLight must find the right balance between affordable price, great quality and attractive margins. Partnerships too will be paramount: only by working with partners that invest in developing sales teams and models that build consumers’ trust – before and after a sale – will GravityLight succeed in scaling.
Thank you to Olivier Kayser and Jessica Graf at Hystra for sharing such invaluable insights that we can tailor to GravityLight!
Our partnerships and start up funding are just getting underway, so please don’t hesitate to get in touch! If you’re interested in following GravityLight’s progress and hearing about our trial this Autumn, keep an eye on www.deciwatt.org or follow us on twitter @gravity_light.