Here’s a post from my trip to visit EG Nepal and our newest entrepreneur, Pabitra.

Namaste! Five is the magic number- number of days I’ve been in Nepal, and according to Sita, the number of days foreigners usually last before succumbing to stomach-related discomfort. I’m glad to report I’m eating like a (Nepali) champ- I’ve taken quite a liking to dahl baht and no tummy aches yet. Knock on wood.*

I spent the first couple days in Kathmandu seeing sites and meeting with Santosh and Sita. We had to delay our trip to Bardiya because of some bandhas (traffic-stopping strikes) but eventually left on Tuesday around 7am and arrived at Pabitra’s house 7 hours later. My sincere thanks goes out to our driver, who was able to avoid vehicular collisions with:

• Water buffalo
• Goats
• Dogs
• Trucks
• Cars
• Motor bikes
• Scooters
• Woman on bicycle
• Woman on foot

Transportation on the road can only be described as “controlled chaos”.

According to Santosh, Bardiya is the South Dakota of Nepal. A fair analogy, although South Dakota does not see 107F in the summer. In impoverished areas like Bardiya where basic needs are still unmet, promoting solar lamps becomes ever more challenging; customers must decide which needs are most important for them to spend their already-stretched wallets. Is it on a clean-burning stove, a smoke-free light, school uniforms or something else?

Spending five minutes next to a traditional cook stove burned my lungs and left a taste of soot in my mouth. Imagine cooking and tending to children in a smoke-filled environment on a daily basis! Implementation of Improved Cook Stove (ICS) technology is definitely needed in Bardiya. I’m really excited to leverage EG’s entrepreneur model to address cooking concerns as my next project.

Sales training with Pabitra’s family, the sales agents of her business, Tri Urjah, was very cool. We laid out a slide deck of some basic marketing frameworks as a way to help everyone think of effective ways of promoting solar technology. I found that the recommended practices I’ve learnt at business school are pretty much in implementation already by Pabitra and her husband. Segmentation, targeting, positioning, laddering to customers’ aspirational needs, etc. All of that was happening, but using frameworks provided some structure to existing sales techniques. I’m pretty sure Pabitra’s husband could teach a course on sales. Even before starting the presentation, he gave a 20 minute speech on why someone should purchase a solar lamp, addressing every single framework that we had prepared. Although I don’t understand Nepali, I couldn’t help but laugh with everyone else when he threw in some funny jokes.

The following day, we held a clean energy awareness presentation. Santosh and Sita did a great job engaging the audience (20 or so village members), and awarded a d.Light S10 to a top-scoring trivia contestant. Cost of solar technology was of course the biggest concern among participants. The other concern was the “made in China” stigma of foreign products. We have a ways to go for Empower Generation building a strong-enough brand equity to overcome this misconception. We know the products we offer are world-class; it’s a matter of helping our customers realize this as well.

Before heading to Chitwan, where Sita’s business Kalpavriksha Greater Goods is, we had the pleasure of participating in the opening ceremony of Tri Urjah. Many guests and neighbors arrived to support Pabitra and learn more about her business. Traditional Hindu blessings were exchanged, delicious food and beverage was consumed.

 

If there’s one thing I take away from my visit to Bardiya, it’s that a strong community will always have the opportunity to rise from poverty when its members continue to believe in and support each other.

Looking forward to an elephant ride tomorrow through Chitwan National Park!

*Kevin didn’t get sick the whole time he was in Nepal–That’s a first for EG. He really is the dhal bhat champion!

There are only 10 lights left to sell until EG meets our goal for funding clean energy in Pabitra’s community. Please Buy-One-Fund-EG over the finish line!