Few facts, stories and figures about Solaris Tanzania's growth in 2016 from Charlène Giraudier (country director at Solaris Tanzania).
Impact & development
"Solaris keeps expanding here in Tanzania, in the lake region and we are now installing about 100 new systems every month via the two shops Solaris we opened during the year.
So far, we have managed to connect nearly 900 households and micro-entrepreneurs' who have been enjoying our product and services. Overall, we have delivered clean and affordable energy to more than 5500 people (directly) in 2016 thanks to our technology and associated services.
As an inclusive company, we want our system to be flexible and affordable. Our clients are based in a rural remote area where there is no access to the grid. They earn as little as 40,000 TZS (i.e. $18) per week for their household.
We believe impact is on the long run as well, that’s why we make sure we have reliable customers since our objective is for our customer to complete their loan and finally own their system (94% of activation ratio on average which shows their ability to repay the system). To do so, we dedicate the right amount of time and resources to ensure a high quality standard of after-sales services. At Solaris Tanzania we also care about our micro-entrepreneurs and small businesses. We want our technology to also help people to generate revenues of sustenance and improve their living standards.
We have now more than 30 entrepreneurs making their living out of our system either through phone charging businesses or barbershops. We empower them through trainings and monitor closely their growth so that we make sure Solaris system is repaying itself.
Challenges we have faced
To support our internal growth, we had to constantly adjust our organization and make sure our activities remain scalable. We are learning as we grow and therefore everyday carries new challenges to face. We have been able to ensure a constant growth of our customers' acquisition rate over time, especially through our expansion to a new district with our 2nd distribution hub. We have increased our brand awareness in villages thanks to our new marketing tactics and our network sales ambassadors (who we trained through our Solaris Business School) to become highly qualified salesmen.
Next challenges for 2017 will be to replicate: opening new shops and increasing the expansion rate while maintaining the quality of service delivered to our customers! Thus, to support our expansion on the technical level, we are working on several technical optimizations aiming at reducing the time of an installation or improving the level of clients’ education on the system for instance. Lots of improvements have already been made in terms of after-sales as well and we want to keep improving while we grow.
To maximize our impact beyond our Tanzanian borders, we also play the role of training center on behalf of Solaris Offgrid, by training the new partners who are willing to replicate the Solaris model in other regions of the continent. To do so, the team is sharing the organisation's knowledge and experiences with them, delivering the keys of our models' performance.
The life in the bush
Our days in the field are quite animated! We usually travel about one hour in a daladala (local small bus) to join the theatre of operations. Among the co-riders, we often have goats and chickens, stuck among the crowd of passengers! We want our shops to be as close as possible to our clients. That implies experiencing frequent power or water cuts too. Once in the field, we often experience some funny situations as well and that teaches us a lot on a daily basis on both corporate and personal standpoints.
Sometimes, our technical team is trapped into positions where they have to deal with snakes or beehive in the middle of a client installation!
On a more personal note, I am always delighted to witness how close we are to our clients and how hard we make sure to develop a strong and long term relationship with them. Our after-sales agents, called "Solaris Rafiki" (meaning friend in kiswahili), create a strong social link in these remote areas where they are seen as a reliable and available resource to them. Thus, they are frequently invited for lunch by the clients during their visits, and it is always fun to watch: Karibu Tanzania!"
Charlène Giraudier, Country Director at Solaris Tanzania