Freeplay Energy Group

Empower the global village: distribution of self-sufficient electronics for underprivileged people in South Africa and India

Tuesday 20 January 2009

2 inspired

The inspiration for the company came to Chris Staines, the founder of Freeplay Energy, in 1994 when he was watching a BBC documentary and realized the great potential of a pioneering idea of British inventor, Trevor Baylis. The latter developed a prototype of a windup radio, which does not require neither batteries nor electricity. Trevor Baylis has appeared on TV claiming the radio was indispensable as an effective mean of communication to spread the safe-sex message which would help decrease HIV/AIDS cases in Africa. Following this idea and willing to promote self-sufficient electronics, Chris and his business partner, Rory Stear, created, with the help of different organizations, FreePlay Energy Group (FEG). Their idea surpassed the initiatives of many NGO’s that have tried many times to distribute radios, but the need for a battery or electricity always blew the success away. Instead, FEG has commercialized a product that needs no power-source and made earlier unaffordable radio transmission in Africa possible.

Freeplay Energy Plc is showing very strong financial results. Its net profits for 2007 rose to $11.5 million from 7.2 million for 2006 which is due to the increase in its revenue which reached $44.7 million vs. $26.1 million in 2006 .Currently, the company’s market capitalization is around $12.5 million (£6.42) . FEG’s mission is to make energy available to everybody all of the time. It exists to make an improvement possible in the well-being of impoverished people. Regarding its values, FEG is committed to providing environmentally friendly and high quality products.

Freeplay Energy operates in the ‘duo structure’. Freeplay’s Foundation is operating in developing markets according to the following principles: It distributes lifeline radios in the rural areas of Africa and insures that every unit of its product serves a ‘listening-group’ (which can be a school or a ‘community gathering place; where 10-20 people, for smaller lifeline appliance, or around 40 people, for large lifeline gadget, get together to listen and discuss issues raised in radio programs) and not only a single person; It also works on the content of information provided by close work and cooperation with local and international broadcasters. Thus, health information, electoral and civic education, agricultural assistance, environmental issues, etc are all transmitted; It strictly monitors and evaluated the effects of its programs. This enables FEG to learn and improve its strategies constantly.

Up until now, Freeplay Foundation distributed more than 250,000 radios in Sub-Saharan Africa, which allows access to information to more than 6,000,000 people. The other part of Freeply Energy Group – Freeplay Radio2 (1997) , appeals to Western markets . The gains obtained with the sales of Freeplay products (which include not only radios but also battery-free flashlights and torches, mobile devices, etc) are used to support the Foundation. At the same time, the Foundation generates publicity for the selling of such simple products in oversaturated rich markets. Therefore, there are mutual positive synergies for the two `businesses´.

Although FEG has diversified its assortment of products , the largest profit per product belongs to the wind-up radio (in fact, FEG obtained a patent for the wind-up technology). Moreover, products provided by Freeplay Energy on the both markets are environmentally friendly since they require only human, solar or other means of energy that are not causing any pollution. Currently Freeplay Foundation is providing only lifeline radios to African countries. It is also working on developing a cheap renewable lighting to provide to African communities since the great majority of the population does not have an access to electricity and, therefore, light.

However, there is a big range of products that could be developed and spread in same territories improving the life conditions of these people. The company, for example, could develop lifeline/ radio mobile gadgets since there is literally no mobile means of communication between villages.

Bibliography

http://www.freeplayfoundation.org/
http://www.freeplayenergy.com/
http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/entrepreneur/article524972.ece
http://www.digitallook.com/cgi-bin/dlmedia/security.cgi?ac=&csi=112067&username=
http://uk.biz.yahoo.com/13052008/323/freeplay-energy-fy-gross-profit-11-5-mln-vs-7.html

Location: South Africa

Sector: energy products, technology

Official website: http://www.freeplayfoundation.org/ and www.freeplayenergy.com/

Key figures:

Revenue: $44.1 millions
Net profit: $11.5 million
Radios distributed: 250 000
Impact: 6 million people

Nbr. visits: 428

Nbr. inspires: 2