The Osprey Foundation recently completed a multi-year Energy Access project with Orb Energy. The project was designed to engage with microfinance institution’s (MFI) in India to sell Orb’s plug and play solar home lighting systems and lanterns with a twofold goal of increasing sales and reaching lower income customers that could not otherwise afford these innovative solar products.
Orb established relationships with three MFIs, educated them on how to identify clients who needed solar energy, and then provided product demonstrations. The MFI’s market a range of products and factors such as incentives or seasonality influence which products the sales team pushes. Thus, a key learning was how time intensive it was to maintain the MFI relationships. While the MFI sales did not scale as forecasted, Orb did see a positive increase in sales from other channels including their retail franchises and agricultural cooperatives.
The MFI project yielded an unexpected benefit by allowing Orb to reallocate funding and quickly respond to customer’s input on their product feature preference. Customer feedback consistently asked for a brighter lantern. In response, Orb produced an upgraded lantern with a substantial increase in lumens while simultaneously reducing production cost in order to remain price competitive in the market.
The project has come to a close but Orb is committed to serving the bottom of the pyramid customers in India. They will continue to sell their solar plug and play lighting systems and lanterns through their retail channels and to search for better ways of tackling the complex issue of how to reach the clients most in need.