Electrifying Malawi With Yellow Solar
In 2017 only 11% of the population in Malawi was electrified, one of the lowest energy access rates in the world. As one of the poorest countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Malawi was overlooked and underserved with solar lighting and charging solutions, highlighting a paradox emergent in the world of solar: in an industry dedicated to reaching customers most in need of off-grid energy alternatives, the lowest income households are often left behind – that is, until Yellow Solar decided to do something about it.
Yellow Solar is a company that pairs mobile technology with highly organized sales networks to deliver energy and finance solutions to the poorest households. Seeing mobile devices as a game-changing resource for both sales and affordability, Yellow has a sophisticated technology platform that empowers agents to train up, process their sales, and track their inventory as well as enable customers to participate in PayGo installments so they can complete their purchase over time, all right from their phones.
The end result of this innovative work is a model that substantially reduces costs of distribution, one of the key barriers to operating in lower income geographies. Overcoming this challenge, Yellow was committed to bringing safe, reliable energy to Malawi, they just needed the right product partner to complete the picture.
“It was clear from our first meeting in 2018 that BioLite was interested in building an enduring partnership,” says Yellow CEO Mike Heyink, “we knew these were the people we wanted to work with for the long term and our subsequent success together really came down to a perfect product market fit.”
That market fit was a combination of affordability, access, and quality. Working together, both Yellow and BioLite found ways to reduce costs, creating viable price-points for the Malwai market; thanks to Yellow’s successful training and management of over 1,000 sales agents through their mobile platform, the organization was able to reach nearly every district in Malawi; and through BioLite’s continual commitment to high-performance and durable product development, the customer experience has been overwhelmingly positive:
“I was afraid after my agent had left but I have never had an issue with my solar, it lights my shop till when I close and still has power in the morning for me to listen to radio before the sun is out,” says Kateme Brenda, a Yellow Solar customer and BioLite SolarHome 620 user.
Not only does the SolarHome 620 provide multi-area lighting and FM radio, it also charges customers’ phones, a critical detail in staying connected to everyday life including the ability to make mobile payment installations towards full ownership of their systems. In addition to customer satisfaction, BioLite’s dependability and responsiveness has also contributed to a strong foundation of trust among Yellow agents and teammates, providing confidence in the products they work so hard to sell.
Fast forward to today and more than 85% of all SolarHome solutions installed in Malawi are from BioLite with hundreds of thousands of units providing safe, reliable solar lighting and charging to off-grid households.
BioLite is incredibly proud of our successful partnership with Yellow Solar and we look forward to our continued work of transforming energy access in Malawi as well as venturing into new countries in 2022, helping thousands of households take their first step on the energy ladder.
"Because Biolite products are sellable, easy to use, I have made many sales that got me income to own a motorcycle, I am now looking to own a house." Mukono Sadat, Yellow Solar Agent