Nick Sireau

Ashoka Fellow
United Kingdom,
Fellow Since 2009


This profile was prepared when Nick Sireau was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2009.
The New Idea
To really address the energy needs of the poor, the supply and distribution of products needs to be fundamentally reoriented to the end user. Nick is developing a citizen-driven consumer approach which is based on the ability to find the right salespeople to deliver the right products, using the right processes. By focusing on the consumer power of impoverished rural Africans, rather than on the technology that they lack, Nick is creating an effective and constantly evolving distribution mechanism for products that are in demand by paying customers.

Nick has created SunnyMoney, the first micro-franchise brand of clean energy products for the rural poor in Africa. Nick realized that most distribution mechanisms in Africa do not reach people because they fail to understand how to sell to their customers in the local environment. SunnyMoney’s model focuses on identifying the best salespeople for the consumer group in question: Those who inspire the confidence of customers in both the products and the service. Franchisees come from local communities and are selected by their neighbors and peers following an election campaign, which secures the loyalty of the customer base and ensures that the franchisee is ethical, entrepreneurial, and will be committed to the work. By circumventing the need for conventional sales and distribution channels and tapping into the best sales force possible, SunnyMoney avoids being limited by the constraints of third-party distributors or bureaucratic aid agencies. This local distribution model also provides franchisees with the opportunity to improve their independence and standard of living through a reliable source of increased income, thereby creating a sustainable economic approach to address development needs.

To reorient the demand side of the value chain, Nick is creating a strong brand identity focused on the benefits to the end customer rather than on the advantages of any particular product or technology. Recognizing that a successful brand will provide incentives that “pull” customers in rather than “push” them to any particular product, Nick and his team have developed a strict set of governance rules for franchisees in order to establish and protect the reputation of high-quality and affordable energy solutions.

Central to the consumer-facing model is the commitment to develop and source the most appropriate products to meet customer need, rather than finding great products and then introducing them to communities. For example, SunnyMoney found that a significant unmet need for rural villagers was to be able to light the area immediately above the door and outside their homes, as if the village home had access to electricity from the grid, so SunnyMoney is developing a product to meet this demand. All products are constantly re-evaluated to be maximally suited to the target populations they are designed for—they must be inexpensive, simple, robust, useful, and easy to maintain.

Nick’s approach to the supply of energy converts a need into a demand: While solar solutions may seem to be the perfect solution to energy needs in Africa, many communities remain unaware of the possibilities and unable to access affordable products. By activating a trusted local sales force a market is created, with customers for the products and a feedback mechanism (through the franchisee) about what products are the most appropriate. This approach exemplifies an ethical distribution system which is geared toward end user needs. This model has the potential to change the way markets reach the bottom of the pyramid for a vast range of products beyond solar, which empowers the end user over any other part of the supply chain.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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