SolarHome brightens the future of Myanmar rural populations
The In-Venture team
Nowadays, one out of seven people has no access to electricity worldwide. However, it is a necessary condition to human development, often a prerequisite to benefit from water sanitation, medical care or even to start an economic activity. When it comes to electricity access, the discrepancy between urban and rural areas is gaping. Remote and underpopulated rural areas are indeed scarcely connected to national electrical grids. As a result, populations often fall back on traditional energy sources, such as candles or kerosene, harmful both for human health and the environment.
SolarHome has decided to take up the challenge to serve remote areas and to equip these underserved populations with electricity. Born in 2017, this social business operates in Myanmar where it provides the poorest households with autonomous solar systems. The entreprise offers several monthly plans, going from 3.5$ to 9$ to adapt to the household’s financial abilities. A pay-as-you-go system, a prepaid system operating through mobile phones, makes sure that bills are settled at the end of the month. Indeed, the electrical system can be remotely shut down in case of delayed payment. Only one year and a half after its birth, SolarHome provides electricity to more than 23 000 customers, located in diverse rural areas throughout the country.
Launched by FORUM, a Fintech Start-up builder, Solar Home was born out of the “traditional” world of finance. The profitable entreprise endlessly looks for cost optimization and for productivity increase, without having to fall back on public grants. The company is already thinking of its expansion in several southeast asian countries in order to meet the rising demand.
Besides economic performances, SolarHome answers both social and environmental issues. Firstly, access to electricity improves rural populations living and working conditions. Light can increase the amount of time devoted to work, therefore boost households’ incomes, along with information access or the time dedicated to entertainment (TV, mobile phones). A lot of SolarHome customers have engaged in economic activities, like tailors, fishers or cooks who can now benefit from a stable income.
With the use of solar energy, SolarHome works towards environmental protection. Indeed, it curbs the rise of greenhouse gas emissions emitted by traditional energy sources or combats pollution linked to battery use. Kerosene and candles are also harmful to human health and can cause respiratory disease, skin or even sight problems. The electrical grids rolled out by the company are therefore a major benefit to public health in rural areas.
SolarHome’s successful model gives the evidence that economic profitability, along with social and economic impact can go together. Its special business model enables the company to aspire to several types of investments, going from traditional venture capital to impact investment and, therefore, to increase its prospects of success within emerging markets.