Q&A

Southern Innovator - - RECYCLING -

Lu­cas Be­lenky, Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer (CEO) of Top Third Ven­tures Global, maker of the Baker cook­stove (bak­er­prod­uct. com), placed de­sign and the pro­duc­tion life cy­cle at the cen­tre of the en­ter­prise since its start in 2011. It man­u­fac­tures the cook­stoves in Nairobi, Kenya.

While many ini­tia­tives to im­prove ac­cess to en­er­gy­ef­fi­cient prod­ucts for low­in­come house­holds are well in­ten­tioned, what are some of the com­mon mis­takes you see in the prod­ucts on of­fer? I think that some ini­tia­tives lose their fo­cus of who their cus­tomers are and do not place enough em­pha­sis on de­sign, brand­ing and mar­ket­ing. It is more com­mon in subSa­ha­ran Africa for a com­pany or or­ga­ni­za­tion push­ing their rev­o­lu­tion­ary prod­uct to change their cus­tomer (i.e., move oper­a­tions to another coun­try) in­stead of chang­ing their prod­uct.

How can so­cial en­ter­prises cre­ate more ap­peal­ing prod­ucts for low-in­come house­holds? What, in your view, needs to change be­fore there will be greater take-up of energy-ef­fi­cient prod­ucts? There needs to be more fo­cus on and di­a­logue with the cus­tomer. So­cial en­ter­prises of­ten fo­cus more on the in­ter­ests of grant or donor or­ga­ni­za­tions be­cause there is a lot of grant/donor money avail­able. Re­mov­ing the free money from the equa­tion and en­cour­ag­ing in­vest­ment will shift the fo­cus back to busi­ness fun­da­men­tals, such as pay­ing at­ten­tion to the cus­tomer.

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