Monthly Newsletter: Feb 2008

If you'd like to sign up for our monthly newsletter by email, click here

d.light design (www.dlightdesign.com) is a social enterprise dedicated to bringing modern lighting and power to underserved populations including 1.6 billion people currently without electricity globally. We are financed by venture capital firms including Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Garage Technology Ventures, Mahindra and Mahindra, and Nexus India Capital. We also have investment from leading social funds like Gray Matters Capital and Acumen Fund. Our vision is that in 10 years we will partner with other organizations to replace every kerosene lantern in the world with safer, brighter, and more affordable lighting.


Highlights

 

New Offices in Asia!

A huge piece of news is that we have officially decided to relocate our HQ overseas. d.light HQ will be in Delhi where we will be running sales, marketing, needfinding, and distribution. We will also be opening an office in China for designing new products and scaling up production. While uprooting most of our team to the other side of the world presents a lot of organizational and personal challenges, we are very excited about the opportunity to continue building a great company that can bring light to millions of families.

 

New Products
In addition to moving halfway around the world and opening up two offices, we are also in the process of adding two new products to our product line. The new product line will be released in May and will offer a wide range of lighting solutions from $10 - $30 for families living completely off grid or with some intermittent electricity access. The new products include a CFL light for semi-urban areas and a super affordable solar light.

 

nova We're also making some exciting changes to the flagship Nova product. It is now brighter, more efficient, lighter weight, and of course lower cost. In addition, it offers customers an output port to charge their mobile phone, which is a huge need in rural areas. Go, engineering team!

Production Begins!
A few days before Chinese New Year (when China shuts down for 2 weeks), we shipped out our first container of Nova lights. We're now in process of shipping containers of lights around the world and beginning market tests.

production
pic

D.Light Org - Light for 10 Villages in India!
We are very happy to announce that in our first month of running d.light.org, we raised enough money to provide lighting for ten villages in Karnataka, India. That's 1,584 people (956 adults and 628 children) who now will be able to upgrade from kerosene. Hundreds of children will now be able to study and nearly 1,000 adults can earn more income in the evenings. Families will also enjoy a significantly reduced risk of fires, burns and respiratory ailments as a result of upgrading from kerosene to solar lighting. The lights will be delivered in the next 8-12 weeks For those who have already given donations, we are very grateful for your generosity and your commitment to bringing light into the world! Here are just a few of the families who will receive a light:


family

If you are considering a donation, we want you to know that our partner organization will be taking pictures of all the families who will receive lights, so we will provide you with a photograph of the family or families that you sponsor and tell you a little bit about them. Some pictures of families who will benefit from your generous contributions are below. We encourage you to donate today at www.dlightdesign.org.

Story of the Month: Light and Electricity

(Ned Tozun)
electricity It was my fourth day in Madhya Pradesh. The team had spent days interviewing potential customers and shopkeepers in a water-starved rural village and nearby town in the Maholi district. We decided to visit another village that afternoon to get a change of perspective. This village, we were told, had just been connected to electricity, so we were curious to see how having electricity changed people's lives and daily activities. When we visited, we found out that the power lines were set up quite a while ago but had only been activated about 3 months before. About a third of the households in the village already paid a substantial downpayment to activate an electrical connection despite the fact that the electricity bill would be significantly higher than their monthly kerosene costs. Even after paying the downpayments and some monthly bills, electricity hadn't yet been activated for most of the households in the village.

However, we were able to find one family who had an active line. The head of the household was named Tahir. He lived in a household with over 20 people, including 4 brothers, 3 sisters and 4 children. Their electricity connection was activated two months ago, and the power came on every day, but only from 9pm to 4am, the same hours that the family normally slept. In addition, the voltage was so low that it could only sustain a single very dim light bulb, barely brighter than a kerosene lamp. As a result, the family was still using the same amount of kerosene and their children were still studying with kerosene lamps. This was greatly frustrating to Tahir, as he had invested in the electrical connection for his children to study more effectively and pursue a good education. tahir family

tahir

After talking for some time, we went to a dark room to do a product demo. When we showed the product line to Tahir and his brothers and sisters, they marveled at the idea of solar-powered lighting that would not depend on the unreliable electric connection. They wanted to know how much it would cost, when it would be available, what kind of warranty there would be, and where would it be sold. The excitement was palpable, and at the end I remember Tahir looking at the solar Nova in his hand and saying under his breath (in Hindi): "I like this... I like this very much."

After having turned my life totally upside down moving with my wife Dorcas overseas, the insane work schedule, and thousands of things to do on the to-do list, it was a great reminder for me of why we're doing this: So families like Tahir's who deserve so much more than kerosene and a barely functioning electrical connection.

Thank you to Point Forward
In January, we had the amazing opportunity to work with Priya Sohani and Griff Coleman from Point Forward, one of the best needfinding consultant firms in the world. Point Forward uses ethnographic research to model customer culture and identify specific opportunities for new products and services. They volunteered their time to travel with us throughout rural India, leveraging years of needfinding experience and helping us gain insights for future products. We have already integrated some of the learnings from the trip into the current product line and expect to incorporate many of their insights into future products in the months ahead. We learned an incredible amount working side by side with them in how to better understand our customer and design products that meet their needs. Thank you, Priya & Griff!

griff   priya

Hiring
As we are beginning to scale up, we are looking to build out our team in India and China. In India we are looking for people with sales and marketing experience and are first and foremost looking to hire a VP Sales. In China, we are looking for experienced manufacturing and product engineers fluent in Chinese. We are also recruiting MBA interns for the summer who are looking to help us build out distribution, develop and prototype marketing strategies, and sell products globally.