Project Everest

Work Update

[Work Update]: Solar Malawi - Progress Summary - June 2019


In-country operations for Solar Malawi resumed this June and is in its third week, continuing off from the previous team in February. As usual, the team’s goals revolved around sales of a solar product and the accompanying infrastructure (eg. software for automated texting, sales logistics, accounting, etc). The current version of solar product we are selling is the GD-8017A by GDLITE - a solar powered battery which discharges stored electricity in the form of a torch, up to 3 light bulbs, and a mobile charging port.

Previous teams have offered this product in 3 different payment options: Upfront, Layby and Payment Plan (i.e. loans). Upfront payments are when customers pay the entire price of the product and we give them the product on the spot; prices for upfront payments have changed throughout the history of the project. The Layby option is when a customer pays a deposit and we reserve the product for them until they pay the remainder of the upfront price. The Payment Plan option consisted of an initial deposit followed by monthly or weekly loan repayments over a 6 month period, this was largely dependent on previous Social Consulting teams who worked in conjunction with the Solar team. Customers on the Payment Plan have a very high default rate (i.e. people are not paying their loan instalments).

Changes from previous operations

  • Price. We have changed the price for all upfront sales to 35000 MWK (there was previously an option where 28000 MWK was offered to rural villagers).
  • Loans. For the Payment Plan, we now only take monthly deposits (the weekly option has been removed, one of the main motivations for this was that most Malawians are paid monthly and don’t budget ahead).
  • Loans. We are intending to separate the Social Consulting team from the Solar team so they can focus on their own operations. The idea is that the Solar team should be able to manage all their own sales, especially in regards to the Payment Plan.

What we have done so far in June 2019

  • CRM. We have obtained the transaction history for received mobile money payments over the last 12 months in order to reconcile this with our record of payments in the CRM (Customer Relationship Management - a combination of software and systems which interacts with our customers). The CRM contains an automated system which is meant to automatically update the customer database (software: Zoho) whenever mobile money is received, but this system was down for a while so semi-manual reconciliations to the customer database had to be made by comparing it with our company phone’s transaction history. We are still in the process of this reconciliation.
  • Survey. We have created a detailed survey for existing customers regarding their demographics, device usage and defaulting. So far this survey has had limited usage due to the time it takes for people to fill out this survey.
  • New Customer/Agent Location SOP. We also introduced a Customer Location Map. This map records of all of the loan payment customers, locations of Chiefs and Agents as well as the regions of villages we operate in. The SOP can be found here and includes a link to the editable map.
  • Agents. We have contacted potential local agents to distribute solar products. We have created an agent induction program for this and run it with two previous agents. We have proposed a new payment scheme for these agents which will start at a base rate and a sales based commission. An editable spreadsheet has been created to test the scenarios for different base rates and sale commissions and observe which option gives the best amount of revenue. This spreadsheet can be found here
  • Community meetings. We have had 4 community meetings in total. In Nkoka we had 1 person show up and in NAYO we had 2 people show up - so little information was gained from these. In Sumani 2 (there exists a village called Sumani 1), around 20 people showed up and feedback was collected via our survey. We found that many people were affected by the cyclone in June so we proceeded with empathy and granted extensions. Our fourth community meeting in Chemussa (unlike the other 3, we have not been here before) had over 110 people show up and we received plenty of interest).
  • Sales. We have made 15 sales (9 loans, 3 layby's, 3 upfront) in total and generated plenty of interest.
  • New Distribution Channel. We have followed up with Chemussa twice, obtaining sales and eventually setting up a commission scheme for the Chief to effectively act as an agent. To date the Chief has helped make 12 sales (9 loans, 3 layby's).
  • Public Relations. We have filmed success story, featuring a happy and charismatic customer, Gift (who owns an egg and vegetable oil stall in Nancholi Markets). In this video Gift explains in Chichewa his experiences with our solar product and how his business sales has improved by keeping being able to keep his stall open past sundown. He also explains how the payment plan option made it affordable for him and other villagers. Its main objective is to deliver our Unique Value Proposition directly to the customer in a way that is simple to understand and highly effective in demonstrating the social benefits of our Solar product, hopefully assisting in the customers decision to buy our product.  

    However, we would not be using this “success story” to its full potential if we are to only use it in assisting in our sales. Another important role will be engaging potential agents, university students and general EOI’s in Malawi and host country’s with the video to better understand our Unique Value Proposition. This will assist in generating more awareness to Projects Everest’s cause and create more marketing material for potential trekkers. 

Future Actions

  • Continue working on CRM. Reconcile payment histories and test that the texting system and payment system is working.
  • Set up more sales opportunities. Contact village chiefs in database to set up more community meetings for next week. Revisit Nancholi + NAYO.
  • Streamline sales process. Collect necessary forms to make sales into a single folder and develop an easy system to give to July team when they take over.
  • Follow up on chief. Check in to see how many sales he has made and if he needs more stock.
  • Alternative channels. See if Airtel/TNM stores are a possible channel to distribute solar products.


edited on 25th June 2019, 12:06 by Joshua Geller

Andrew Vild 6 months ago

Status label added: Work Update

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Jim Simmons 6 months ago

It is necessary to generate more awareness to Projects Everest’s cause.
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