240 million below-the-poverty-line (BPL) consumers in India have no access to reliable electricity. This forces consumers to utilise unhealthy and inconvenient alternatives for their energy needs, such as kerosene for lighting. Despite 80% mobile penetration in India, rural users often travel 5-10 km to the nearest charging point. Living without electricity makes their lives unproductive and excludes them from the modern economy.
Existing solutions such as Solar Home Systems are unaffordable due to the high upfront costs and financed solutions are still out-of-reach for BPL consumers due to their low and volatile incomes. Moreover, individual solutions such as solar lights are not trusted. Cheap solar lights are affordable but break frequently and are unreliable whilst expensive solar lights are costly to maintain. Distributors of such solutions are interested in making sales rather than ensuring their target communities have access to quality energy sources in the long term. Thus, no maintenance or spare parts are provided resulting in short-termism and loss of trust. Off-grid villages lack access to quality energy sources and a trustworthy service.
Empower is a micro-franchising provider of renewable energy in rural India which leverages existing technology to meet the energy needs of the most underserved communities.
We identify a village-level entrepreneur to become an Empower Energy franchisee, provide them with our solar-powered charging station (locally branded “Solar ATM”), and train them in its operation. Local villagers, can simply rent LED Lamps and battery packs for their lighting and charging needs from their local shop, without any upfront costs. After use, the devices are returned to the Solar ATM and can be swapped for a freshly-charged one. Because of our Solar ATMs, customers have access to a local, convenient and reliable energy source, without the burden of upfront costs or costly maintenance, fulfilling their electricity needs regardless of their income levels.
Our Solar ATMs are light and thus easily transportable by motorbike, allowing us to reach remote villages. Each Solar ATM can be set-up in under an hour and is modular in design allowing it to meet demands of any village size. The system requires no new infrastructure to be developed and can be fit into any existing shop.
We remove all upfront costs for our end-users and provide a trustworthy energy source by guaranteeing the functionality and availability of our products. As we develop trust and loyalty by providing a reliable and convenient service for our customers, we are able to serve additional energy needs of our customers using our network of Solar ATMs.
Our vision is to solve energy access, via our Solar ATMS, across rural and remote India meeting the energy needs of our customers.We do not see ourselves as simply providing value through lighting and charging. We see lighting as an access point to rural villages across India. Our franchisees, who develop trust with our end customers relay additional needs of their communities which we then serve through our distribution network. For example, one of our first franchisees has already asked if we can increase our product offering to include larger-sized lamps and fans for cooling.
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