Baker Cookstoves: Designing for the African Customer
Designing for the African Customer
An innovative social enterprise is using design to create an energy-efficient cookstove for Kenya. The Baker cookstove has been designed in order to be a high-quality and desirable product that also accomplishes the goal of saving money for the user. This unique product is being developed at the company’s factory in Nairobi, Kenya.
Baker’s owner is Top Third Ventures Global, a social impact company registered in Kenya. It was founded by Lucas Belenky and Björn Hammar in 2011.
While cooking is a daily necessity for billions of people, it is also costly and polluting. By switching to energy-efficient cookstoves, families will be able to reduce the cost of cooking daily meals and, if the stove is designed right, reduce the amount of pollution generated while cooking. One of the great obstacles holding back the take-up of energy-efficient cookstoves has been the absence of sustainable business models to sell and distribute energy-efficient cookstoves.
The Baker cookstove, by being designed as an aspirational product and backed up with a seven-year guarantee, hopes to change this dynamic. And if things go to plan, then Baker hopes to significantly scale up its production based on customers wanting to have a Baker cookstove taking pride of place in their home. The Baker cookstove is the product of a deliberate attempt to use design and a well- thought- out production life cycle to ensure that the cookstove is eye-catching, effective, and manufactured consistently and to a high standard. Engineering and design teams also constantly monitor the product and make adjustments to the cookstove as they receive feedback from customers. The Baker cookstove is benefiting from new financing being made available through carbon credits and Baker’s founders believe that this will add sustainability to the energy-efficient cookstove market and bring big changes over the next 10 years.
SI: What role does design play in the Baker cookstove social enterprise? At what stage did Top Third Ventures start to think through the production life cycle for the Baker cookstove? What did you feel was missing in the other cookstove models currently available on the market? Baker’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Lucas Belenky, explained to Southern Innovator the thinking behind the Baker cookstove.
The Baker cookstove is the cornerstone of the social enterprise. Top Third Ventures is at its core a product company. There are different aspects to the business model to make it work (i.e., carbon credits and big data) but everything depends on the success of the Baker product. We started thinking through the production life cycle from the day the company was founded in late 2011. The Baker is designed for usability, aspirational value and performance, prioritized in that order. The most important thing is that the Baker is easy to use and does not require its users to change their daily routines or
Björn Hammer inspects the Baker cookstove
being built in the Nairobi factory.