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One Degree Solar
Approved to post Kiva loans from: Kenya
Kiva conducts regular, ongoing monitoring of all Field Partners, but only posts status updates here in response to relevant, major changes at the partner.
One Degree Solar (ODS) is a for-profit social enterprise that designs, manufactures and distributes micro-solar products to improve access to energy and information in low-income communities across Africa.
Recognizing that access to affordable energy also improves healthcare, education, household productivity and commerce, ODS was founded to connect more households and small businesses with clean and reliable energy sources. To accomplish this, ODS operates distribution networks for solar lighting products that extend into some of the most rural and remote regions of Sub-Saharan Africa.
The organization is distinguished by the comprehensive nature of its model:
1. Product Development: ODS engineers design products that meet end-users’ needs and prioritize ease of maintenance and repairs.
2. Sales: A network of resellers (who have the potential to generate significant income) is trained in customer support, product features and mobile platform features -- like SMS-initiated customer service.
3. Consumer Engagement: Customers receive coupon codes, surveys and usage tips on a regular basis to keep them engaged with ODS, comfortable with the service, and aware of how to maintain their system.
4. After-Sales Support: While products are designed to work with widely-accessible replacement bulbs, batteries and other parts, without the need for special tools or training, ODS can also provide customer support and troubleshooting at any time via SMS.
ODS’s flagship product is a micro-solar home system called the BrightBox, which powers up to four light bulbs and charges virtually any USB device -- including locally-available radios, MP3 players and smartphones. The organization has found that owners of kiosks and micro-enterprises that sell daily goods like bread and sodas make an average of $24 more per week when equipped with a BrightBox thanks to increased operating hours and foot traffic. At the same time, they slash their energy spending by 90%.
ODS opened its first country office in Kenya to kick off retail sales and plans to scale from there. Most of its prospective customers -- families as well as small business owners like shop keepers and food stall owners -- rely on candles, kerosene-based lanterns or disposable battery-powered flashlights that can be expensive, toxic and time-consuming. Several small business owners in the region use propane tanks or diesel generators to meet their energy needs, often incurring even higher operating costs.
To appeal to these people, ODS builds products that are brighter, more customizable and easier to maintain. It also emphasizes collecting feedback directly from end-users and using it to develop and tweak its design, distribution, and after-sales processes.
ODS wants to bring sustainable change to this market by providing these products as well as training and extensive customer care. These elements are critical to providing a reliable and enduring solution that will drive positive word of mouth and widespread customer adoption.
The organization’s innovative approach is exemplified by its mobile “One Degree Community,” an SMS-based customer service network that connects resellers, service centers and end-users so they can help, support and provide feedback to one another. Additionally, One Degree takes an “open-source” hardware approach to product design, meaning that products are easy to open, repair, and maintain using locally available components, tools and knowledge.
Kiva lenders’ funds will be used to offer loans to some of ODS’ best resellers, enabling them to buy more inventory upfront and expand their reach and sales in more rural areas. Offering credit to resellers and end-users alike is essential for ODS to reach lower-income communities and achieve its social impact goals.
ODS joined Kiva through our Experimental Partnership Program, and has therefore received a lighter level of due diligence. Accordingly, loans associated with this partner pose a higher level of risk than typical Kiva loans.