Ujilayo - live tests of an exciting concept in the developing world

Changing the lives of one the one billion poorest people through sustainable business providing affordable electric light.
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Chris KeSihai
Email Verified
849 Facebook Friends
Small Business
Kathmandu
Nepal
1 Team Member

(UPDATE! We're running this as a 7-day "dash for cash" rather than spam our friends for months. Campaign ends 10 October!)

Our six-month mission is to develop and test a business-in-a-box franchise concept for the developing world. The finished product should be easily replicated in under-served communities, enabling local entrepreneurs to change the lives of one billion of the world's poorest people.

The Problem

The "bottom 20%" of the global population has an average household income of just US$50 per month, and spends US$5-8 of that on oil for lighting. That's 10-15% of household income being spent on dangerous, dirty oil that doesn't produce enough light to work by! Governments and charities are not solving this problem, even though the technology to do so already exists. We think it's time for local entrepreneurs to do it, with your help.


The Solution

Help us send a "business-in-a-box," containing a generator and one hundred lanterns each, to forty barefoot entrepreneurs in Nepal and Uganda. We will observe them, coach them, teach them, learn from them, with the goal of turning this into a viable franchise business that can be replicated across the developing world.

This cheap simple electricity generator, developed in Bulgaria, turns honest work into electricity, the most valuable commodity on the planet. It's a labour-intensive solution, in a world where labour is cheap. (Solar panels are expensive, and capital-intensive in countries where capital is expensive.)

According to our tests at our development base in Bulgaria, one hour of work is enough to charge five batteries. And each of those batteries can power a bright LED lantern for up to 40 hours. That's enough to light a room every evening for a week. So in theory, a hard-working guy (employed by a smart girl) can serve a hundred customers and give them light that's better and cheaper than they have now!

(Hand-made prototype circuit board with five18650 lithium batteries. The production model will have all the electronics integrated underneath the battery holder, and much greater efficiency.)

How It Works

  • We provide a complete business-in-a-box and the entrepreneur owes us money. We take the risk that they won't be able to repay it.
  • They offer electric lamps to their friends and family - people they know and trust.
  • Nobody pays for the lamp they take home, but when the battery runs down they have to come back and pay for a recharge.
  • Our entrepreneur makes electricity, and sells it more cheaply than oil, but still makes a good profit.
  • (Her customers may "rent to own" the lamps, or just pay for light without ever buying the lamp. This is something for us to test.)
  • In time, she repays the money she owes to us.
  • We use the money to finance the next entrepreneur - someone sponsored by the entrepreneur we know and trust.
  • In time, we build up a network of people we can trust, all sponsored by one another, who will introduce new entrepreneurs and customers to us.
  • We continue to work with the entrepreneurs so they have access to new technologies, capital, and ideas, in exchange for a small share of their profits.

Why Is The Entrepreneur A "She"?

We've noticed that women are usually in charge of household budgets in the developing world, so it follows that the customers are all women. But we're puzzled as to why there always seems to be a man in charge of every attempt to do something for them. This photo is of Mohammad Yunus, Nobel Prize winning head of Grameen Bank, illustrating the problem nicely.

Women generally have certain qualities that are especially relevant to this opportunity. They're usually more financially astute, better at talking to other women, and most importantly they're more social. This business rests ultimately on the power of social networks, because the entrepreneur is effectively lending very small amounts of money to her customers when she lets them take a lamp. The concept of social capital underpins the whole micro-finance industry, and our new "pico-finance" approach to helping customers obtain the lantern they need.

We don't see any reason why men should be making the decisions. They should be in the background, pumping the pedals, while the women run the business.

Who Is Behind This Project?

We're an international team of engineers, business people and social activists, united by our belief that human ingenuity and hard work are more likely to solve the world's problems than big NGOs. Three of us are World Bank Institute Certified Social Innovators. two are RSA Fellows, and we're supported by the RSA Catalyst program. (The Royal Society for encouragement of the Arts, Manufactures and Commerce is a worldwide organisation promoting innovation for the greater good since the Enlightenment 260 years ago!)

We're doing our product development in Bulgaria, because it's cheaper than China and people there need jobs. 

Chris is the project founder and leader. He's from the UK originally but has lived for many years in Asia. He's now living in Bulgaria, working with several technology startups, and focusing mostly on moving Ujilayo from idea to reality.

Emil is an engineer and entrepreneur from Bulgaria, who also likes barbeques. He is responsible for the Ujilayo generator project, and is losing a lot of weight by testing it.

Javie is a Computer Science graduate and social activist from Kampala, Uganda. He has helped with our original research, working with poor villagers to understand their needs, and has found candidate entrepreneurs who are ready to test the Ujilayo idea.

Niraj has just completed his Master's degree in Agricultural Science at Rampur in Nepal, and we hope he can become our first full-time employee. He has done a lot of original research for us with poor communities in Nepal, and will run our first field trials there.

Anna is a UK-based supply-chain specialist with lots of experience in the developing world. She is also working on other technologies that are related to our core project.


Project Timeline

  • 16 September 2013 - campaign launch
  • 10 October 2013 - campaign ends
  • 30 November 2013 - kits are shipped from Bulgaria for field trials in Nepal and Uganda. We start collecting data about how things really work on the ground, how entrepreneurs and customers behave.
  • December 2013 - benefits shipped to our wonderful community of backers.
  • January 2014 - our entrepreneur partners are asked to agree payment terms to buy the business-in-a-box we have provided, any money raised is used to fund the next development cycle based on what we are learning from them.
  • March 2014 - end of project, publication of final report. Strategy meeting for the team, founding partners and sponsors. Decision time: can we make a real business out of this?

What We Can Do If We Exceed Our Funding Goal

Our "official" goal is very low because if we exceed it then we have more chance to be featured and promoted by IndieGoGo, which means we can be seen by more people. We already have a grant from the RSA (matched by our own funds) to pay for a small proof-of-concept trial, and any extra money enables us to increase the scale of that.

Our real goal is to start 40 new businesses, each serving more than 100 families! That's 4,000+ families, with typically five people per household. Your support enables 20,000+ people to get electric light for the first time, and by learning from them we can create a scaleable franchise business model to tackle this problem globally!

  • £1000 is enough to provide one entrepreneur with a generator and 100 lanterns, enough to start a business, enough to prove that she can earn a living from this.(Sponsor this with a few of your friends!)
  • £5000 enables us to start five new businesses in Nepal, and support our volunteer helper, Niraj, to work full-time on this project for six months.
  • £10,000 means we can also do field trials in Uganda! Different cultures do things differently, so it's important to get feedback from different places early on in the product-development cycle.
  • £25,000 starts ten businesses each in Nepal and Uganda, and pays for one member of our team to visit each country. This is enough to give us "robust" data about what works, and experiment with different ways of doing things.
  • £50,000 is the limit we can usefully invest in our entrepreneurs. Twenty businesses in each country, support from us in making those businesses work, and the foundations of a real entrepreneur community.
  • £50,000+ Anything beyond this amount goes to further technical development, with some support for the team so we can give up our real jobs and try to turn this into a real business!
  • £100,000 is game-changing. We can conduct a further trial in South America, and develop our "ultimate product" - a series of plug and play devices that use power from human work, the wind, or eg a Stirling engine powered by biogas and/or concentrated solar power. The devices we see a need for in future include water-pumps and filters, flour mills, sewing machines, and tools like saws and drills.

Find This Campaign On
£868GBP
raised by 26 people in 25 days
174% funded
0 time left
£500 GBP goal
Flexible Funding This campaign has ended and will receive all funds raised.
Campaign Closed
This campaign ended on October 10, 2013
Select a Perk
  • £1GBP
    Get Involved

    Get our newsletter and help us create a new vocabulary to shape the way we think. We will send you a survey form asking for suggestions on what to call the target demographic, market, the entrepreneurs we work with, etc. We have BRICS, barefoot entrepreneurs, the bottom 20%, etc., we need words so we know who we're talking about.

    1 claimed

    Estimated delivery: October 2013
  • £10GBP
    Get The Report

    In addition to the survey form, we'll send you a fabulous e-book documenting the project with photographs, data, analysis, and profiles of the barefoot entrepreneurs that have taken part in our research.

    10 claimed

    Estimated delivery: March 2014
  • £25GBP
    Become a Certified [something]

    You could be an "Innnovation Sponsor", "Rainmaker", "Development Entrepreneur" or whatever, as chosen by our supporters through the vocabulary survey. (See the £1 pledge above) We'll also list you on on our wall of fame. Send us a photo, a few lines about yourself, and link to your website so your page-rank can improve along with your karma. And, naturally, you get the full e-book as well.

    0 claimed

    Estimated delivery: March 2014
  • £50GBP
    50-50-50 OFFER

    The first 50 people pledging £50 or more, during the first 50 hours of this campaign, get a direct line to the project founders until the campaign ends. Use it to ask for extra benefits, offer advice or help, or ask questions directly to us. You will also get all the other rewards offered to the normal £50 backers.

    2 out of 50 claimed

    Estimated delivery: March 2014
  • £50GBP
    Read All About It

    Not just a certificate, survey, listing on the wall of fame, and warm fuzzy feelings - we'll send you regular weekly reports on what we're doing and what we're learning. No doubt there will be many surprises and challenges, wouldn't you like to learn about them as they unfold? AND ... on top of that, we will also send you the full PRINTED COPY OF THE BOOK AND a fine Dhaka Topi hat, hand-made for you, and proclaiming your affiliation to our world-changing project.

    3 claimed

    Estimated delivery: March 2014
  • £100GBP
    Join our BRAINTRUST!

    All the rewards listed above, plus join our special advisory group. Get access to behind-the-scenes information as the project moves forward and give feedback on our invite-only discussion forum. Plus: Write an article about yourself and why you are supporting us, for our site. As well as a hat, get a unique wool sweater. Your copy of the book will be signed "for xxx with thanks" by the team.

    3 out of 100 claimed

    Estimated delivery: March 2014
  • £250GBP
    Founding Partner

    Join the braintrust and receive all the other goodies listed above - plus extra RECOGNITION for your outstanding contribution. For one year, founding partners' logos go in a rotating banner on our website, every day we feature an article describing one of the founding partners on our front page, and we will mention you in newsletters etc. AND join our strategy development meeting in March 2014. (Travel not included)

    0 out of 100 claimed

    Estimated delivery: March 2014
  • £500GBP
    LET'S DO LUNCH

    Meet with the project's UK-based people (or Bulgaria) to break bread together and have a long chat about the big picture behind our project. We promise, you will be wowed by the stuff that's not mentioned here! (Max 4 backers per lunch, also includes the £250 pledge rewards.)

    0 out of 20 claimed

    Estimated delivery: March 2014
  • £1,000GBP
    Direct Entrepreneur Sponsor

    Sponsor an individual entrepreneur to start a business. Put your name on the hardware they use every day and receive a personal letter of appreciation and framed photo from them. Carry with you forever the knowledge that you have personally CHANGED THE LIFE of someone. (Plus all the benefits listed above.) £1000 is enough to start a business that can support a family and transform a community. IF YOU CAN'T AFFORD THIS ON YOUR OWN, WHY NOT CLUB TOGETHER WITH A FEW OF YOUR FRIENDS?

    0 out of 20 claimed

    Estimated delivery: March 2014
  • £2,000GBP
    Visit Us At Work

    All the benefits of the £1000 pledge, plus come and spend a week with us in the Chitwan National Park area of Nepal. Visit YOUR ENTREPRENEUR and do some tourist stuff too. We have elephant safaris, jungle hikes, traditional foods and dance, plus you get to spend time with the project team and find out what's really happening. (Flights not included.)

    0 out of 10 claimed

    Estimated delivery: February 2014
  • £5,000GBP
    Global Sponsor

    Your logo will go on every generator we ship, and be included on the book, website, and all printed material. Be fully involved with the development of the business, and we'll invite you to write guest articles on our site alongside your profile etc. You'll also receive all the certificates, reports, clothing, etc., AND we will also send you a complete working pedal-power GENERATOR - with your name on it - and some lamps, just in case the lights ever go out at your home or office.

    0 out of 5 claimed

    Estimated delivery: December 2013
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