In India, more than 100 million households, of which 1.8 million are in Rajasthan, lack access to energy and are left to rely on kerosene to light their homes. In such less-privileged countries, girls and women often have it worst.
Frontier Markets is tackling the problem of distribution to bring access to affordable, renewable energy to India’s poor, focusing particularly on the needs of women.
Frontier Market’s has trained about 1,000 women clean energy entrepreneurs (Solar Sahelis) and more than 700 are currently active in the role.
Active Sahelis are given one month credit on stock and are paid a monthly stipend for marketing and collecting customer data for Frontier Markets. They are also paid commission on sales, and for undertaking follow-up and minor repairs.
Sahelis take great pride in their role and the enhanced reputation it brings to both them and their families. They enjoy the opportunity to make their own choices on spending, and the freedom of not having to ask their husbands for money.
“Reaching out to rural markets requires a bottom-up approach, we have to identify what rural people need, the price points they are comfortable with, demonstrate the use of the product we are selling, and show them why it is relevant to their lives.” Ajaita Shah, Founder Frontier Markets.
Since March 2017, FM has sold 200,000 solar solutions including 35,000 home systems, 150,000 solar lamps and torches, and 15,000 clean cookstoves, solar inverters, and street lights; bringing benefits to 1 million people in their homes, and well as helping in over $5 million in savings and over 75,000 carbon tonnes in saving.
Around 30% of sales have been through the network of over 700 active Solar Sahelis, who have become a crucial part of the retail sales model. They are earning regular income, often for the first time, and are also gaining respect within their communities.
Frontier Markets is scaling to new states in India – Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Maharastra, Jharkhand, Odhisa, Bihar creating more than 40 new NGO partners, and working with the Rural Livelihoods Government Mission.