What we've been up to in Kenya

Over the past few months we’ve had the chance to reflect on the GravityLight journey, the activities of our teams in the UK and Kenya, and the incredible support of people worldwide along the way. We wanted to share the highlights with you...

+ We made over 8000 GravityLights

5000 of which were sent to our community of crowdfunders and 3000 for our pilot in Kenya. We are incredibly grateful for the support we’ve received from around the world to make this a reality.

+ Over 3000 of these were assembled in Kenya

Inspired by the success and quality clean cookstoves manufactured by Burn in their factory in Ruiru, Kenya, we collaborated with them to be able to test local assembly of GravityLights. Our Technical Director, Jim Reeves was there to train up 10 people to assemble and quality control 3000 GravityLights, produced over several months.

+ We built a great sales team for our pilot in Kenya

With the pro-bono support of Anjarwalla & Khanna via A4ID, we established a trading subsidiary, GravityLight Kenya Ltd, to be able to build a local sales team to conduct this pilot.

Eric, Collinse, Job and James worked across The Coast, Western, Nyanza, Eastern and Central Kenya – raising awareness, building relationships with community groups, selling to and supporting customers with their GravityLights.

+ We tested different marketing approaches across the country

Kicking off with a cross-country roadshow supported by Shell’s #Makethefuture campaign, we reached over 30,000 people, demonstrated GravityLight to 16,000, raising awareness of the risk of kerosene and introducing GravityLight as a clean, safe alternative.

Through surveys at the roadshow we were also able to gather a more detailed picture of the different dynamics across rural, urban and peri-urban locations and different regions: access to energy, alternative solutions used, income levels, openness to new ideas, decision making role of men vs women and, ultimately, interest in GravityLight. 2674 people registered their interest in buying a GravityLight when we launched in the following months.

With this understanding, our team developed and refined a tailored sales strategy for their regions. From stands at market days to presenting to community savings groups, the key principles were

  • Building awareness through a visible (bright orange!) branded presence and live demonstrations at market days and community group meetings.
  • Building familiarity and trust through regular, consistent presence at market days and building a local network of sales agents in each town.

+ We trialled instalment payment programmes to increase affordability and accessibility for customers living on just $2-5/day

One of the objectives of our pilot was to test sustainable models for GravityLight to scale. First, this means designing a product that people need and want, and that evolves with user feedback and secondly, establishing a price that offers ‘great value for money’, is affordable, and which also generates sufficient revenue for sales agent salaries.

For a household spending $0.50/day on kerosene for light, a GravityLight at $25 would pay for itself within 50 days of switching. However, the off-grid households we spoke with, living on c.$3/day, struggled to afford a single upfront payment of $25.

Our sales team designed an instalment payment trial of different payment options to help overcome this big hurdle to sales – and impact. We worked in parallel with community savings groups, called Saccos and Chamas, to provide financial support and community endorsement of a customer’s trustworthiness.

Throughout, mobile tools – such as mobile money (MPESA) and mobile surveys (Appsheets) were incredibly helpful, making sales and follow-ups with customers easy and efficient.

+ We conducted in depth research, with independent partners, to gather feedback from users and potential customers

Understanding the use and benefits of GravityLight has been central throughout our activities. Asking questions such as: How does the product perform over time? What are the adoption rates of GravityLight? To what extent does it replace a kerosene lamp? What are the barriers to purchase and use? How does it compare to alternative options? Would users recommend it to a friend? We aimed to validate GravityLight’s actual performance in a variety of situations, its ability to replace kerosene lamps and to test our hypotheses about GravityLight’s and the financial, health and environmental benefits generated over time.

Ultimately, conclusions from this research form the basis of future decisions for both the product and The GravityLight Foundation’s approach and activities.

To gather and assess this information, and ensure it’s as reliable and useful as possible, we have used a number of approaches, tools and independent research partners. Funding from Stiftung DOEN, Comic Relief and SPRING supported us to conduct SMS surveys, phone interviews and in home observations with GravityLight users, focus groups with ‘potential users’, and a comparative study where families used and evaluated GravityLight with alternative lighting solutions. From mobile surveys and phone interviews to in home observations and interviews across several months, market research and user feedback has been at the heart of our pilot in Kenya.

In our next posts we’ll be sharing more about the insights gained from this research and their implications for the future…

And we want to thank you for your support along the way!

Many incredible people and organisations have made this possible. We want to thank every single donor and our Indiegogo crowdfunders; the generosity of low and pro bono professionals who have volunteered their time and expertise; and the financial and strategic support of several foundations, charities and companies.