Pakistan, ranked as 6th most populous country of the world with a population exceeding 200 million, is going through an unprecedented energy crisis. Almost 140 million people have either no access to electricity or suffer from load-shedding for over 16 hours every day. Political leadership has, on numerous occasions, exploited energy crisis as a ticket to lure more people into voting for them. However, no substantial progress has been made in ending this crisis.
Electricity is a basic necessity. Its smooth provision comes with a promise of a better life, education, awareness, health, and prosperity. The rural populace, in particular, has yet to embrace and witness electricity’s life-changing effects.
To help this segment of our country, startup EcoEnergy (EE), founded by Shazia Khan and Jeremy Higgs, is providing an array of economical and affordable energy efficient products with different finance models in Pakistan. Jeremy Higgs, born and raised in Australia, is based in Pakistan since 2007. The opportunity to impact lives of millions and efficiently bring about positive change in the country was enough to convince Jeremy to settle here. “The things I have been doing here would not have been possible for me in Australia. I always had an urge to build something, to solve problems and to change lives.”
In 2010, when Jeremy was toying with the idea of clean energy, his now co-founder Shazia Khan, a Pakistani-American was researching on the deplorable situation of energy crisis and its extent in the country. A common friend introduced Jeremy and Shazia Khan. It was an easy decision to join forces and collaboratively work as both had complementary skills, passion for the same cause, and the grit to find the solution.
“500,000 households are impacted with unemployment as businesses have been forced to shut down due to energy shortages.” — Source, Raftaar
Fast forward 6 years, the startup has already won grants, accolades, business acceleration programs, and created a network of its own agents who have sold over 12,000 clean energy products.
Their two important products Lantern and Solar Home Systems are starting from $10 each with different financing options. The products are imported from a British supplier BBOX.
“The challenge is to find the right set of people and businesses who need energy products the most”, explained Jeremy. Instead of establishing a manufacturing facility from the scratch, the team preferred sourcing the products so as not to lose focus off the problem. The startup is sharply focused on bringing the technology enabled products to the targeted consumers while simultaneously maintaining a healthy customer relationship.
There are 70 million off-grid people across Pakistan. EE is hoping to address another 70 million on grid population which doesn’t have reliable electricity. The majority of these household and businesses have no electricity for over 16 hours in a single day.
A 140 million directly addressable market is a huge opportunity for the startup to scale and impact. Heedful of the potential opportunity, EE is introducing in near future a new product which will supply 24 hours electricity to off-grid customers. Hence, people will be able to experience electricity like their on-grid counterparts.
The operations are right now centered across the rural Sindh with 7 sales agents covering 4 districts. The penetration of EE in these districts is quite good and response of customers has been by far very positive and favorable. Once the startup acquires 10,000 to 15,000 customers, it plans to take more districts under its ambit.
“In the last five years, Pakistan has taken a hit of Rs. 145 billion per annum from system losses in the grid due to inefficient transmission and distribution.” — Source, Raftaar
EE was also enrolled in the first ever batch at Velocity, Telenor’s go-to market accelerator, which has helped the startup explore new avenues. Through a developed partnership with Telenor, EE will have access to over 75,000 Telenor agents across Pakistan where they will be selling a product configuration – mobile charging hub – to business owners. This mobile charging hub can charge 9 mobile phones and can add an additional PKR 3000 to the monthly revenue of these business owners.
The demo day of Telenor Velocity is right around the corner where startups will get a chance to pitch and gauge interest of investors. Although EcoEnergy has recently raised a working capital of USD 500,000 through international investors and has received grants from GSMA and National Geographic totaling $100,000. However, it is doing an equity round as well for which the demo day is very important.
The investment will help EcoEnergy accelerate their operations, grab potential growth opportunities and eventually improve lives of millions of households by tackling the energy crisis.