Every day many Kenyans experience power outages. Many more, especially in the rural areas, are not even connected to the electricity grid. Energy from off-grid solar panels promises to be an effective and environmentally friendly solution, but for many low-income citizens this is still an unaffordable option.
By combining an innovative clean-energy product with an original marketing approach, Collins Kayo turned this challenge into a unique business opportunity. His venture, Coca Tech, is one of the 70 firms supported by the Kenya Climate Innovation Center (KCIC). With the technical support of the KCIC, the company developed and commercialized the innovative Plug and Play Power Box, a new portable battery powered by a small solar panel.
“Our product is unique; we don’t build a battery that is heavier - and therefore more expensive - than necessary,” says Mr. Kayo. “Another selling point is the portability of our power box; this reduces the risk that the device gets stolen and customers don’t need to install new wiring to use the solar panel.”
Despite the significant cost reduction made possible by the new design of the box, with a selling price between 25,000 and 57,000 Kenyan Shilling (between 325 and 700 USD), the product was still unaffordable for most Kenyans. Mr. Kayo found a solution in an innovative marketing approach based on partnerships and co-marketing initiatives with other organizations. Coca Tech partnered with a large cement manufacturer to demonstrate the advantages of the power box to hundreds of employees. After the demonstration, the partner company offered its employees the option to purchase the Plug and Play Power Box through small monthly payroll reductions. This innovative marketing solution led to more than 30 new orders in just a few weeks.
The KCIC helped the young firm during the initial development and commercialization phases with business advice and numerous networking opportunities, including the Climate Technology Workshop and Expo held in Nairobi last week. Now that Coca Tech aims to expand even further in the Kenyan energy market, the center will play an important role in facilitating new partnerships and access to financing. Specifically, Mr. Kayo is focusing on joint initiatives with local microfinance institutions to introduce subsidized loans that will make the Plug and Play Power Box affordable to a large part of the population.
Pictured above: Collins Kayo and his Plug and Play Power Box.