May has been a month of swaps, which is quite fitting, given the nature of our business.
We swapped the valuable contributions of Anne and Jodie (thank you to both of them for their excellent insights and development of our systems and processes) for the veteran knowledge of Yi Wang (welcome back!) and rookie Kirsten Hagfors (authoring this blog post). Sophia swapped time in the office for time at home, preparing for the arrival of her first child. We wish her the best.
We swapped batteries without discharge controls for those with them. The recent delivery of this long sought solution to inadequately deep discharge of the batteries that we rent out to our customers will help extend the lifetime of our inventory and reduce the frequency at which our customers need to exchange devices for newly charged ones.
We swapped our newest EGG-team addition, rural African community expert Joel Lagoutte sent by BlueEnergy (BE) to identify community sites where we could collaborate with BE to set up electricity generation capacities that would be large enough to power productive uses, between fieldwork in Iringa and brainstorming sessions in Dar es Salaam.
We swapped CEO Jamie Yang between conferences, spreading information about the current business and future endeavors of EGG.
And, most importantly, we continued to swap unreliable and expensive traditional lighting sources for consistent and cost-effective lighting solutions, listening to the consumer feedback that our end-users provide so as to drive our mission forward. How can we make swapping more convenient? What modifications in our current operations will help attract new customers, or meet current customer demands better?
One example of a more flexible and less-costly lighting solution is a solar lantern. While our home lighting systems offer the most reliable and efficient way for users to illuminate their households, a solar lantern has lower upfront costs and can be used both within and outside of the house. Reports indicate that increasing the hours of study time for children or enabling parents to prepare a meal by the light of a pollutant-free lantern improves the livelihoods of users.(1)
Through our initial research of solar lantern business opportunities, we identified Greenlight Planet as a manufacturer of a durable and inexpensive solar-powered lantern. The first chance to try these out in the field came to us through Songas, a Tanzanian natural gas company. Songas purchased several Sun King Pro solar lanterns to be distributed to a community of people that had been displaced from their village following a flood. We traveled to a school 15 km outside of the Dar es Salaam city center to deliver the lanterns to the eldest child in each displaced family that had been identified by Songas. Our staff organized the distribution process and demonstrated the proper use and maintenance of the lanterns. It was an exciting and rewarding application of our potential product offerings. We’ll be sure to check in with the community to see how the lanterns are performing and used. Although Greenlight Planet offers a generous warranty on their products, we don’t foresee having to take advantage of this service.
And now we swap May for June, looking forward to the opportunities we’ll be pursuing during this cool and dry season.
(1) Meisen, P., & Akin, I. (2008, November). The Case for Meeting the Millennium Development Goals Through Access to Clean Electricity. Retrieved June 6, 2012, from GENI.org: http://www.geni.org/globalenergy/research/meeting-mdgs-through-access-to-electricity/MDG_Final_1208.pdf