Our first week of sales has been exhausting, but we’ve learned so much. While we’ve been educating our customers on how to use their units, they’ve been teaching us how to better design our product and how to efficiently convey the concept of pay-as-you-go solar. To communicate the idea of pay-per-use energy we’ve learned to refer to LUKU, which is the keypad-based pre-paid metering program used by people on the grid in Tanzania. People love the idea of “LUKU binu TANESCO”, which means LUKU without the government-run Tanzanian Electric Supply Company (which apparently isn’t very popular…). A common point of confusion has been the difference between charging the unit’s battery, and paying for energy use. We’ve learned the value of the “simu” (phone) analogy: you have to keep your phone’s battery charged, but you also have to buy airtime in order to make a call. And, although luckily many of our customers are familiar with the concept of solar energy, we’ve been emphasizing the importance of keeping the panel in full sunlight for as many hours of the day as possible, which has led to some creative solutions!
We have been surprised and intrigued by some of the other questions and concerns of our customers. Mama Ngede
wondered if the brightness of the light could harm her eyes, and we assured her that it was much better than a flickering kerosene lamp. Mama Mwajema asked if she could use the light while it was still wrapped in bubble-wrap because she was worried that insects would get stuck behind the lens. Stefano had been warned that charging with solar could damage his phone, so he was considering saving for a back-up battery just for use with our unit. He was also concerned about radiation from the light because it was an electronic device like his cell phone, and he had heard that cell phones emitted radioactivity. We reassured him that the SoLite was safe for his phone, and his health! These experiences make us so grateful for this opportunity to interact directly with our customers, and use their feedback and insights to grow as a company.