Impact of Off-Grid Products: Inside Deevabits’ Distribution Business

As part of Angaza’s human-centered approach to designing solutions for last-mile distribution, we aim to deeply understand the point of view of distributors and their clients. One of the ways we do this is by visiting distributors and the end users to whom they sell life-changing products through the Angaza platform. Recently, we spent a day with Deevabits in western Kenya. Below are observations of their sales agents and clients on how off-grid products have impacted their lives.

 

Janet Found Solar More Cost-Effective than Parraffin-Based Lamps

Janet is a client of Deevabits. She works at a tea plantation in the outskirts of Kisumu and owns a solar home system, which she purchased via pay-as-you-go (PAYG) loan financing. Since switching to the solar home system last year, she has found it to be a more cost-effective way of lighting her kitchen and family room than paraffin-based lamps. An added bonus is being able to charge her phone and radio with the solar home system.

Deevabits client who owns an off-grid product

After Janet pays her installment payment via mobile money, she receives a keycode to activate her PAYG-enabled lamp

When Janet makes an installment payment to Deevabits through her phone, she immediately receives a keycode to activate her PAYG-enforced product. Activating the solar home system has been so easy that sometimes her children input the keycodes.

Behind the scenes, Angaza’s platform processes the mobile money payment from end users like Janet and dispatches a keycode to their phone so that they can activate their products using the keycode.

 

Connected to the Electrical Grid, But Chooses Solar for Portability and Health

Violet chose a solar lamp over the electric grid

Violet with the off-grid solar lamp she chose over the electric grid

Violet is connected to the electricity grid but opted to replace her grid-connected light with an off-grid solar lamp to lower her energy expenses. After she’s fully paid off the PAYG product in affordable installments, there won’t be an energy expense associated with using her lamp. And, as a mother who moves around with her baby, she likes that her light source is portable and brighter than the grid-connected light she used before.

Another mother, Lorine, switched from a paraffin-based lamp to a solar one to avoid smoke. While she thinks solar lamps are a good investment because they’re cost-effective, the impact on her family’s health sealed the deal for her.

 

Due to Popularity, Martin Relies on Referrals Alone to Sell Off-Grid Products

Sales agent with phone to activate off-grid products

Sales agents send new client information via SMS to Deevabits’ call center, where the client is registered on the Angaza Hub

Martin, a sales agent with Deevabits, sold the off-grid solar lamp to Violet last year. He also purchased an off-grid solar device from Deevabits: a solar home system that serves multiple purposes. In addition to using the solar home system for his personal use, he demonstrates the product’s capabilities to potential clients. Because of the rise in popularity of off-grid products in his community, he doesn’t need to market the product as heavily as he used to when he first started out; he can now rely on referrals to acquire new clients.

Once a client is ready to make a purchase, Martin uses his cell phone to begin the registration process. Sales agents with smartphones typically use the Angaza Activator app to register new clients and process their payment. For sales agents like Martin who own a basic mobile phone, Deevabits has created a registration process relying on SMS messages and the Angaza Hub. After his new client makes a downpayment via mobile money, Martin notes down their information in an SMS that he sends to Deevabits’ call center. There, a call center agent registers the new client on the Hub and assigns the mobile money payment to their account. Then, the client receives a keycode to activate their new product.

 

Jacklyn Started as a Deevabits Customer, And Quickly Became a Sales Agent

Angaza Activator app to track off-grid products

Sales agents use the Activator app to register clients, manage their clients’ payment, and provide support

Sales agent Jacklyn uses the Activator app to register clients, keep tabs on their payment balance, and provide after-sales support. One of the ways she provides client support is by helping clients reactivate their PAYG-enabled product once they’ve made a payment. She does this by quickly looking up her clients’ account number and the latest product activation keycode on her smartphone if they forgot or deleted the information.

Jacklyn was a Deevabits customer before she became a sales agent. After buying her first solar lamp through Deevabits, she transitioned to selling those lamps and creating a source of income for herself and her family.

 

A Daughter Follows in Her Mother’s Footsteps, Becoming a Sales Agent for Off-Grid Products

Deevabits sales agent who sells solar off-grid products

Alice (right) passed on the sales agent baton to her daughter Jacklyn (left)

Jaclyn inherited her sales agent role from her mother, Alice. Alice initially started out by selling small lanterns and switched to selling products on a pay-as-you-go basis. When her daughter showed interest in following in her mother’s footsteps, Alice passed on the sales agent baton to Jacklyn.

Alice is also an owner of an off-grid solar lamp. She chose to own a product to save money and for convenience. Instead of looking for paraffin and match to light up her home, she can now simply switch on the light.

Thank you to the Deevabits team for helping us shed light on the impact of pay-as-you-go off-grid products on end users and on how Angaza supports distributors to bring these life-changing products to anyone, anywhere. For additional insights from the field, read how another distribution partner, Mwezi, balances efficiency with transparency