The last week I was travelling with the sales team through Western Uganda, we were doing door to door sales, demonstrations of the cooking stoves and the water filter in villages and presentations of the products in schools, to the staff. During this week I could gain a lot of information about the people, how they live and what’s important to them, how they like the product (especially the Ezy Stove), why they liked or did not like it, why they bought or did not buy it, which kind of marketing might be the most effective.
The main problem is, that the stove is not exactly what people want, and therefore it is too expensive (while it also cannot be produced cheaper). UpEnergy sold a better expensive stove very cheap as it was subsidised. So now people are not willing to pay more for a product that has less features. Another problem is that the main argument to buy is that it creates savings. So the poor people living in very rural areas will not save as they are not buying but collecting firewood, thus they will not buy the stove. People living more urban and earning a bit more are using charcoal. I also will have to market a (very cheap) charcoal stove which is very efficient, using less charcoal than the usual stoves. Here I find a big personal conflict as I do not want to market charcoal stoves, because charcoal is much more harmful to the environment, the climate and the health, as much wood is needed to create a bit of charcoal. Of course the more efficient charcoal stove still is an improvement to the present situation, and if people want to use it as it is cleaner and nicer to use than firewood, people cannot be forced to step back and use firewood.
Another observation is, that we cannot serve the poorest of the poor, the real BoP population. Of course the middle class of Ugandans (our target group) still is very poor, it is a developing country, people’s living standard is very, very low.
My job is challenging and that is great, I am excited to find solutions that meet the company’s, the people’s and the environment’s needs. The first goal is to create marketing that pushes sales of the ezy stove.
It also was amazing to get to know the people and the beautiful country. People are very nice, welcoming, curious, generous and funny, while the country has a rich nature and is incredible beautiful.
I am very grateful to be here and to experience all of this.