SolarNow

Power your life

Monday 12 June 2017, by Javier Andueza

A. The main facts about the activities of the company.

SolarNow is a Uganda-based company selling and financing solar home systems, founded in 2011. If we look at the definition that the company states, we see that they are “a for profit social business with Dutch origins, passionate about transforming lives by providing high quality solar energy and financing solutions in East Africa”. It has 46 branches in Uganda with growth to other East African countries, for instance, in Kenya.

The company has four main lines of business that are:

  • Household solutions: It is a simple service that offers a basic battery and solar panels, with a Light Pack of 3 Light Bulbs and a Radio Torch. It gives the option of upgrading the batteries or the panels as well as buying some extra household products, such as TVs, flat irons, fridges or clippers.
  • Small Business solutions: It offers the same service than for Households. It helps reduce the costs of the small entrepreneurs’ businesses and improves the quality of the services that they can offer.
  • Farming solutions: It offers a solar water pump system for a reliable supply of water that makes farming more efficient. It helps reduce costs as well as the dependency on the expensive and scarce water truck service.
  • Corporate solutions: This service was created for Corporate Offices, Health clinics and Schools. It offers a basic pack which includes 4 solar panels and 4 batteries, all of them with augmented power and capacity.

To get the solar power system you only need to follow 4 simple steps:

  • Decide on the best solar solution for your needs
  • Pay upfront or apply for credit - Get approved
  • Free delivery and installation within 14 days of deposit paid
  • Enjoy your solar system: Stress Free!

In April 2017, it was mentioned by the London Stock Exchange Group as one of the companies to Inspire Africa. The company has improved the lives of more than 70,000 people in Uganda.

B. The Ethical challenges this company is addressing.

  • Poverty Reduction: it helps local business reduce costs and make their operations more efficient and reliable. It also provides households with an easier and cheaper energy systems. You can see Solarnow´s impact on the testimony of a local hairdresser: “I earn more money every day with solarnow. with my solarnow clippers, I see more customers and have less accidents”.
  • Unemployment And Fair Working Conditions: the Solarnow team consists of a high percentage of local workers who are fairly rewarded for their efforts and enjoy fair compensation, such as career development, medical insurance and competitive salaries with high performance bonuses.
  • Sustainable Development: While a large portion of the Ugandan population doesn’t count with an energy system, Solarnow helps them get a source of energy that is not only cheaper on the long term but also more eco friendly.
  • Socioeconomic Opportunities: Solarnow´s biggest achievement is the cost reduction and energetic reliability it offers to their clients. According to a satisfied corporate client, “Switching to solarnow was one of the smartest business decisions i made. we stopped paying for unreliable and expensive grid energy and generators. after 2 years of repayments we now pay nothing for our lighting and charging needs in the office. and we are never having a blackout again!”
  • Improving Standard of Living: it has improved the local standard of living by providing an effective power supply, this also improves the medical care services: “Solarnow means our lights and medical equipment always function to help us do life-saving work! for example, before, it was really hard for our maternity ward to deliver babies safely. now with our solarnow system we are much better equipped to work 24 hours a day with the lighting we need!”.
  • Social Development: even when clients don’t count with the economic capacity to hire a solar system, Solar Now offers credit solutions to make their products affordable and reachable to the local people. they also improve future opportunities to families and children: “Our solarnow system means that we are a better educational institution. our children deserve access to light and information to fulfil their potential. we are now able to provide a better start for our kids with solarnow!”

C. What makes you believe this company is really ethical and why you trust it?

We think that this company is really ethical because it addresses a clear need of a segment of population (in this case Ugandan population) and tries to offer a service that satisfies their needs, doing it responsibly and taking into account the limitations of its customers. While it is a profit business, it adapts to what people can pay for the services and tries to make conditions favorable for them, without taking advantage of their situation, but in contrast, helping them.

We believe in them because they are really committed to transform the lives of these people. It is in their mission, and their business strategy consists precisely to offer a variety of products that can adapt to the needs of these citizens and also to what they can afford. It is not only that they offer solar panels in order to create energy in places where there is no electricity, because solar panels are relatively common nowadays. For us, the most important fact, is that they engage in a commitment to provide products (electrodomestics) that can perfectly work with the panels that they also offer. Therefore, we feel that they truly believe in the idea because they don’t just provide energy solutions, they also create the artefacts that are really going to change and improve the lives of these people.

So, it is really interesting for us what they are doing in terms of the effort: from our point of view, they are trying to merge business prosperity and sustainability along with the development of the Ugandan population. It could have been easier for them to go to more profitable markets, but the fact that they wanted to provide solutions without caring only for the profits, but caring about the main end of its solutions (their customers, the Ugandans), was really touching for us, especially, when we are talking about a population that can easily be exploited or where the firm could have taken advantage of their situation in order to make higher profits from their need of an energy solution.

Another important aspect of the company regarding trust are the team of workers. These are people very well prepared (many of them from Netherlands) that have good education and important job experience. This fact shocked us mainly because these workers could be in many other companies where there would be earning much more money, but instead, they are committed in a firm that creates real social value for the people, even “at the expense” of not making huge profits.

D.The possible challenges facing the company in the future and how you think this company may improve.

Some challenges that the company could face:

  • Risky Credit: if the conditions of life of Ugandan population worsen, their ability to repay credits could decrease and the company could suffer, affecting company’s capital in the long term if they are not able to recover their investment.
  • Lack of Innovation in their systems: investing a large portion of the company’s capital may decrease their investment in research and development for new and improved systems, allowing competitors to surpass them. They should also try to improve the systems they offer to keep on developing.
  • Unreliable batteries: the batteries are a key component for the use of the electrodomestics. The company gives 1 year warranty and are expected to last for more time, but if they don’t, this could result in the need to buy batteries more frequently, increasing costs for consumers that may value less the products offered by SolarNow and change of company.
  • Low Barriers of Entrance from foreign competitors, but it is also true that in order to enter in the sector, the financial rewards are not as high as in others, so there must be a truly social interest from the company.

As a long-term objective, the company could try to carry out the production of its goods (they are currently manufactured in China). This could avoid transportation costs, but what is more important, it could contribute to the creation of a manufacturing center in the African country, which could have a higher impact in society and, in the end, could benefit SolarNow. This would be a nice achievement, but it would probably imply that the company should develop education for workers in Uganda.

Finally, another suggestion could be trying to develop more products that can be served with the solar panels. For instance, we could think about laptop computers, mobile phones, or even a mean of transport. However, we know that this could be more demanding and depends on the technology knowledge that the company could have and the application of these technologies.

Bibliography

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par Liv

Location: Kampala (Uganda)

Sector: Electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supply

Official website: https://www.solarnow.eu/

Key figures:

Countries: Uganda and Kenya.
46 branches.
Staff: 533 people
More than 14.500 clients.

Nbr. visits: 103