Solar lamps replace toxic kerosene in poorest countries
"You have some night-fisherman spending up to a dollar a day on kerosene -- a huge chunk of their income. If they buy a solar lamp they've potentially recouped their investment in a month or so, freeing-up extra money to invest in their business," he says.
Influenced by C.K. Prahalad's book "The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid" -- championing the collective buying power of people earning a few dollars a day -- Chugh and his American founding partner Matt Scott have predicated their business model on the idea that world's poorest can be the drivers of commercial innovation.
"The MightyLight is really a co-creation with the target users. We developed it exactly how they wished it to be ... and the result is a product that would appeal even to the wealthy in New York," he says.
proving to be a more effective mechanism at providing long-term solutions than government or NGO aid
Patrick Avato, Lighting Africa Project director
According to Avato, it's this focus on entrepreneurship -- as opposed to aid -- that has underpinned much of the progress around off-grid lighting over the last few years.
"It's taken a while to convince investors that there is a viable market here. But you just have to look at the figures -- Africans alone spend $10 billion a year on kerosene, and there are 600 million people without electricity," he says.
At the recent Lighting Africa Conference in Nairobi, Avato claims there were over 50 companies promoting their off-grid lighting products -- up from just a handful only two years ago. This, he says, has helped enable 1.5 million people across the continent to acquire some form of cheap, off-grid, renewably powered light.
"The market is proving to be a more effective mechanism at providing long-term solutions than government or NGO aid," he says.
For Mills, the entrepreneurial model in this case has both social and environmentally practical benefits.
"Rather than the old 'relief' mentality around solar where you have charitable organizations dumping these lights from a helicopter, you now have individuals making small investments for themselves and yielding big returns. It's a more sustainable model that fosters aspiration," he says.
What do you guys think about this "vision" and "use" of capitalism?