India Solar Electricity: Lamps, Fans & Lights for Chickens


india solar electricity

Imagine a world without electricity. Can you visualize it?  How would your life change?  No electric stoves, refrigerators, or microwaves. No television! How would you cook food? Read a book? Conduct business?

If you had just a small amount of electricity, how would you use it? Would you light your room?  Run a small fridge? Charge your phone? Take a minute and envision your life with only a little “juice.” For so long, you had none. Now, you finally have access to something much of the world has had for generations.

Such is the life for many thousands of miles away in India,  a country housing the world’s second largest population.  Although electricity for many Indians is rare at best, they have the sun’s energy to fuel life. 

The sun rises in Uttar Pradesh, one of eight states in India, about 200 million souls in the north. Humid air clings to your body. In the dark morning, you light a kerosene lamp, its fumes spreading from your small home.

Chickens, penned in a cage, watch their night light bulb turn off.  A fan cools your children’s faces as they slowly wake. Another day begins.

You live in the vast country called India. Electrical power is yet a dream for a quarter of the population. Except you. Your family has a solar panel attached to your home’s roof.

The Facts

India Solar Electricity is Growing at 250% Per Year

Paul Needham, President of Simpa Networks,  a solar service company, spoke with me in 2014.  His company provides solar solutions to Uttar Pradesh in Northern India.

Homeowners make an affordable down payment to lease a solar panel, battery, fan, and lights.  At any time, they are able to top up electricity use like they would for minutes on their mobile phone.  Two years later, a family owns the solar system.

Simpa will offer its service to 4 million people within the next 5 years and another 25 million in the next ten.

This company is only one example of India’s solar electricity growth. The government’s master plan calls for 50 “solar cities.” Deloitte says India can produce three times the solar power as all energy output in 2012. Currently, India  produces only 1% of its solar potential.

India solar electricity could become a model for the world. (China coal burning pollution is avoidable in India.)  A solar-powered India offers enormous opportunities for clean energy that will benefit the country and set the stage for others as well.

India’s prime minister continues to spur these opportunities and has ordered coal-fired plants to bundle solar and fossil fuels. His most recent visit to Silicon Valley and conversations with Tesla’s Founder, Elon Musk, proves that India solar electricity will continue to grow.

Back to Uttar Pradesh – New Day Dawning

The sun sets in Uttar Pradesh as your family watches a movie on a mobile tablet. Bright, energy-efficient lights have now replaced the kerosene lamps. A large fan in the corner helps cool the nighttime air.

As your chickens nestle in for the night, they turn toward a light panel, illuminating them amid dark shadows.

It is all possible.

Discover more about India solar electricity.

Mobile Credit Scoring in Emerging Markets

mobile credit scoring

In previous articles, we’ve talked about the benefits of mobile money accounts. The unbanked use their telcos and/or a third party to move money to friends, families, and businesses. But what if a farmer in Tanzania wants to build a barn or expand a small business? That’s where mobile credit scoring comes in.

Before I discuss how mobile credit scoring works, consider the financial and mobile ecosystems worldwide:

  • Banks and other lenders in developed countries rely on credit bureaus and scores based on a consumer’s income, credit lines, loan repayment history, and other factors. However, most of the two billion unbanked people who live in developing countries don’t have credit scores. They’re at the “bottom of the pyramid,” hidden from lenders. They are financial nomads without “digital footprints.”
  • 60% of people in developing countries lack Web access. In South Asia, for example, less than one in seven people has online access. Even fewer use social networks or e-commerce sites. Only 10% of people in eight Sub-Saharan countries have verifiable online financial data.

  • The good news! 90% of people, including those in emerging markets, have mobile phones. And each cell phone has a unique phone number. And MNO’s (mobile number operators) have phone call and text records from each of those phones. Calls and SMS messages easily generate terabytes of data. Probably more data than your credit bureau generates on you.

First let’s look at the key players.

MNO’s, Analytics Companies, Lenders, Customers

  • The MNO’s own customer phone data; so operators must first agree to share call and transaction detail records (CDR’s and TDR’s). Some MNO’s may become lenders themselves, making it less likely they’ll share customer data with competitors. Some regions also pose challenges. In Indonesia, for instance, five mobile operators must all agree to cooperate for data generation.
  • Financial institutions, banks or credit card companies, underwrite the loans. Financial institutions benefit from lower loan losses and increased revenues.
  • Analytics companies must develop excellent mobile credit scoring models that accurately predict loan payback.
  • Customers apply for loans and authorize MNO’s to use their call data securely and privately for loan approval. Customers get quick decisions on loan approvals.

Cignifi, First Access, InVenture – Mobile Credit Scoring Firms

McKinsey and Company in 2013 issued a report identifying the need for alternative methodologies—including mobile—to assess credit risk among the unbanked. The following companies are actively engaged in finding better ways to offer credit in emerging markets.

Cignifi and First Access work with CDR and TDR data to develop credit scores for lenders. InVenture analyzes data and also funds the loans. Here’s a brief background on each company:

  • Cignifi. Based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the company’s management team has expertise in big data analytics, consumer scoring and mobile financial services. Cignifi uses mobile phone usage to assess not only a person’s credit risk but also the probability that a person will use a particular financial service or product. The company works with partners in Uganda and Ghana to expand the use of mobile financial products and services. Its main partners are mobile operators, banks, retailers and insurers throughout the world.
  • First Access. Located in New York City and Tanzania, this company also consults with lenders providing mobile credit scoring of unbanked customers, who lack the collateral for loans. For a  comprehensive view of the company, see the CGAP summary and download its PDF.
  • InVenture. This very progressive analytics and financing company, located in Santa Monica, CA, uses SMS, Facebook, and What’sUp as part of its credit risk review. InVenture developed its own Android app and financial analysis software called Insight. The app makes it easy for customers to track their finances, apply and get a loan decision in one minute directly from InVenture.

    Operating primarily in Sub-Saharan Africa, this firm is rapidly expanding into Kenya. CEO and Founder, Shivani Siroya, explains in the video below about the world of credit and developing markets.


Find out more about mobile credit scoring, Cignifi, First Access and InVenture. 

Cambodia Money Goes Mobile at Wing

cambodia money

Ten years ago, running a “mobile money” or banking operation in Cambodia attracted few investors or companies. This war-torn country with its agrarian economy seemed like the last place on Earth to advance the cause of financial inclusion.

But things change. A company called “Wing,” financed by the deep pockets of ANZ Bank, Australia, started a mobile money exchange business. Launched in 2008 with operations commencing in 2009, Wing Money locked up agreements with all but one of the seven telcos in the country (used to be ten, an unbelievable number considering Cambodia’s population). 

Anthony Perkins, who runs Wing, shared in our podcast interview last year about  Wing’s launch strategy: Push as many mobile-based products into the market and see what sticks—mobile top-off, money exchange, merchant payments,  and more. Perkins believes Wing might have failed if they would have offered just one product like Kenya’s  M-PESA.  A  telco, bank, or other company might have squashed them in their infancy.

Not that the citizens of Cambodia wanted mobile money accounts, despite 95% cell phone ownership. Cash-in-hand—preferably U.S. dollars instead of Riels—made better sense to Cambodians.  And banks? No one trusted them. Well, 5% wealthy residents did as of late 2013. 

Telcos? Cellcard offered top-ups and an early mobile money start in 2010; however, as of 2015, it’s website shows a partnership with Wing.

Cambodia Money Owners Don’t Read English

Enter a big problem for Wing. Only 10% of all phones in the country support Khmer Unicode on USSD, the standard phone protocol. The other 90%?  English. Hmm…this posed a major challenge. How do you get your customers to handle mobile money transactions in English on their phones when they speak, write, and read in Khmer?

Problem semi-solved. Hire thousands of retail agents who are known by the populace and spread them across the entire country. Then allow them  to exchange money and give mobile phone lessons.

Wing Flies Higher and Makes Money

Fast forward to 2013. Wing becomes profitable. $1.2 billion in transactions. Lots of money was moved from underneath mattresses to digital currency. In September 2014, the Central Bank lets Wing operate as a bank under a special agreement.

Resulting in…

  • Wing customers pay bills, make credit card and loan payments through 20 microfinance organizations. Government remittances occur in the wings.
  • March  2015 brings an agreement with Kasikorn Bank in Thailand allowing Wing customers to send money to Cambodian refugees.

Telcos and bankers scratch their heads thinking,  “This isn’t Bangladesh.”

Cambodia Mobile Transactions Flying to Wing 

Now, you might think Wing took the country by storm while potential competitors sat on their haunches. Not true. As mobile money became more popular, bigger players emerged.

  • ACLEDA Bank offers rural retail banking to 160,000 Cambodians  through its banks and ATM’s in 160 rural districts. Unfortunately, they lack agents in rural areas.
  • Metfone, owned by Vietnamese Viettel, a large telco also operating in Africa, Vietnam, and eight other countries launched EMoney earlier in 2015. Presumably Wing copycats, owned by the military in Hanoi and operating at half the cost of Wing while employing low-cost military labor for their network agents.

Meanwhile, Wing continues to grow. Due to its five years of dominance—and new Cambodia money products—the company is positioned for long-term success in this country of nearly 16 million people.

Learn more about Wing, Cambodia, and mobile exchange.

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