About Azuri Technologies
Azuri Technologies is a leading provider of affordable pay-as-you-go solar home systems to off-grid consumers. Combining the latest solar innovation and mobile payment technology, Azuri delivers reliable, renewable and distributed power to the millions who have no access to modern powered services. Azuri operates in five key territories; Kenya, Nigeria, Zambia, Tanzania and Uganda with East Africa Headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya and West Africa Headquarters in Lagos, Nigeria.
What products and services does Azuri provide?
Azuri has two flagship solar products designed for the off-grid market. Azuri Quad offers a complete home lighting system, while AzuriTV offers home lighting alongside satellite solar TV.
The Azuri Quad Solar Home System provides a complete package of household lighting for as little as US50 cents per day. The product comes with 4 powerful LED lights, rechargeable radio and torch, plus mobile phone charging. Once the system is paid for, all the energy generated is free.
Meanwhile, AzuriTV comes with a 24-inch super slim LED TV, over 100 satellite TV and radio channels, four powerful LED lights for use inside and outside the home, mobile phone charging, rechargeable radio and rechargeable torch.
Azuri solar home systems feature HomeSmart, the company’s unique machine-learning technology which ensures customers have ‘light all night’ by monitoring climatic conditions and adapting to the customer’s lighting needs.
In addition to designing award-winning products, Azuri has partnered with leading consumer brands to provide rural off-grid consumers a choice of modern services and devices available through its pay-as-you-go solar solutions. Azuri HospiCash, offered in partnership with APA Insurance in Kenya, is income cover and life insurance exclusively designed for off-grid customers for a small premium which is added to their weekly pay-as-you-go system top up.
Azuri and Unilever have also partnered to offer free Sunlight washing powder with every Azuri Quad solar home system, further enhancing Azuri’s vision of creating a level playing field where all consumers can access and benefit from the digital economy, wherever they live.
What sets Azuri apart?
Azuri solar systems are of the highest-quality and contain technology as advanced as anything in the West. Azuri is the only company to have state-of-the-art machine-learning technology. Azuri HomeSmart learns and adapts to customers’ usage patterns. Unlike conventional systems that can shut down early in cloudy conditions, Azuri HomeSmart monitors and adapts to climatic conditions to ensure customers have ‘light at night’.
Azuri’s unique market approach also differentiates the company in this sector. The company works hand-in-hand with local distribution partners who have extensive networks of agents and sales infrastructure that make it possible for Azuri products to reach even the most remote customers. Working with local companies ensures investment is returned to the local economy and supports the creation of new jobs in rural communities.
Technology traditionally starts in cities and eventually finds its way to rural areas. How is Azuri turning this on its head?
When people think about traditional technology development, they very often think of development occurring in the cities and eventually diffusing out to rural areas. But in the last 20 years, the rapid rise of the Internet and digital technologies has changed all that. Digital technologies are an enormous lever. If you are sending a tweet, whether you are sending it from the middle of Nairobi or in rural Turkana in Kenya, it is a tweet and has the same impact. Many people in rural areas, however, continue to suffer from a lack of basic facilities, lack of access to communication, lack of access to infrastructure and financial services. By bringing modern electricity and modern digital services, Azuri is helping people benefit from a rapid increase in standard of living and household income. There are hundreds of millions of people who live in these circumstances and while development will often continue to happen in the major cities, the digital age is enabling the rural consumer to enjoy the many benefits of modern services and devices, wherever they live.
How big is the pay-as-you-go market opportunity?
The market opportunity for pay-as-you-go solar is huge. There are 600 million people without access to the grid. Azuri is able to provide services to that entire customer base. The exciting thing about pay-as-you-go is that a consumer is not a consumer once but a consumer many times.
Azuri promotes the concept of the ‘services spiral’ whereby a consumer moves up the spiral from an entry-level product to a larger product with more services. So a customer will take an entry-level product, for example, that offers for example lighting, a rechargeable torch and rechargeable radio. The customer will then pay for that product over a period of time, typically 18 months. When that customer has paid for the product, a number of things have occurred. Firstly, the customer has benefited from having solar. Secondly, the household has increased its income as a result of the technologies provides and they no longer have to pay for kerosene and charging their mobile phones. What happens next is that the individuals in that household will look to a bigger system that can give them access to more services. Some will upgrade for example to Azuri’s solar TV package which offers hundreds of channels of content.
How is pay-as-you-go solar transformative?
Solar can provide immediate financial savings compared to expensive kerosene and batteries and solar’s impact on the environment and on physical health are well documented.
Azuri customers report they are able to spend more time in the field or keep their business open longer, which means they can earn more for their family. Light at night also helps families spend more time together and children can study for longer at home.
In a recent industry study, nearly 60% of off-grid solar customers undertook more economic activity within just three months of purchasing a solar home system; whether gaining a new job, using their system directly within a business, or being able to work for longer.
There are significant longer-term benefits that come from being connected via solar-powered radio, TVs and mobile phone. Access to the modern digital world, political engagement and nurturing of entrepreneurial ambitions leading to local job creation are added benefits of being connected by solar.
How is innovative financing helping to shape the industry?
In order to make pay-as-you-go successful and scalable companies need to get a number of things right. They have to get their products and services right. They have to get the distribution right. But most importantly pay-as-you-go companies have to get access to finance in order to fund the rate of growth that is necessary in this sector. One of the unique characteristics of Azuri is that the company has found innovative ways to get debt finance to enable it to fund the rapid rollout of its technology across Africa. Finance is secured against the expected revenues which are going to come from the individual consumer. So for example, if you take 10,000 consumers with Azuri systems, the company is able to get debt finance secured from the revenues from those 10,000 customers which then is enough money to provide technology to the next 10,000 customers. That situation perpetuates which means the company is able to scale the technology very rapidly.
What can we expect from Azuri over the next 5 years?
Azuri aims to target over 5 million people outside the power grid over the next five years. Azuri already has established teams operating out of five African countries; Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.
The company continues to explore innovative collaborations which will help bring a greater choice of consumer goods and services to off-grid rural consumers. The company has already partnered with Unilever and APA Insurance in Kenya to deliver affordable new modern services for consumers, made possible through Azuri’s pay-as-you-go solar solutions.
Azuri also remains at the forefront of innovation and its state-of-the-art solutions continue to collect prestigious industry awards and global recognition.
Overview of pay-as-you-go solar
One of the most pressing developmental challenges in sub-Saharan Africa is the need for modern energy services among the energy-poor, low-income communities who are beyond the reach of economically viable electricity grids.
Some three-quarters of Africa’s rural population lack access to electricity, forcing them to rely on expensive and dirty fuels like kerosene for lighting and diesel for generators – if they can afford them at all.
Azuri pay-as-you-go solar home solutions integrate the latest solar and mobile payment technology to provide off-grid households in sub-Saharan Africa with their own micro power station.
The key element of the pay-as-you-go solar model is enabling low-income earners in off-grid locations to make small payments towards acquiring solar systems and electrical devices that would ordinarily be out of their reach. Azuri customers pay for their system in weekly or monthly instalments with no up-front costs. Once the system is paid for, all the energy generated is free of charge.
The daily cost of an entry-level system is similar to the amount customers would spend on alternative energy sources, such as candles, kerosene, and batteries.
To overcome the challenge of rural ‘last mile’ distribution, Azuri works with local distribution partners with agents located in the communities they serve. The company uses sophisticated information technology systems – including web platforms, mobile apps and two-way SMS – to communicate with customers and solar systems.
Unlike conventional power grids, solar power is inherently scalable – each household can be added one at a time, without the need for any underlying infrastructure. This makes rolling out pay-as-you-go solar power rapid and in Africa more households have been connected to solar than connected to the grid in the last 3 years.
Financially, pay-as-you-go solar is a fully commercial venture, without the need for any grants or government subsidies. And because it replaces expensive kerosene, it is one of the few renewable power offerings that makes money for the customer from day one.
Azuri CEO Simon Bransfield-Garth is an entrepreneur with a passion for technology and the role it plays in addressing the challenges of emerging economies. He has over 30 years’ experience building rapid growth, technology-based businesses in the semi-conductor, automotive and mobile phone sectors. Simon’s career includes 7 years at mobile OS platform developer Symbian as VP Global Marketing and part of the Leadership Team. He also founded IT products and services company Myriad Solutions Ltd. Simon was previously a Fellow at Cambridge University and holds a PhD in Engineering from St John’s College in Cambridge. Simon currently sits on the Governing Council of the African Centre for Technology Studies (ACTS).
East Africa General Manager Snehar Shah has over 10 years of expertise in investment, finance, and business development focussed on African markets. Snehar has enjoyed a successful career in telecoms and consumer services markets. He previously worked for mobile communications provider Orange where he was head of the company’s mobile money business unit. Snehar holds a degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering (BEng) from Imperial College, London, and is a qualified Chartered Accountant (ACA) and Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA).
West Africa General Manager Vera Nwanze has more than 20 years of commercial experience focussing on African markets. Vera’s previous experience includes senior positions at multinational pharmaceutical companies Novartis, GSK and Cipla-Evans. Vera has experience in working with regulators and policymakers has implemented numerous quality assurance and sales strategies targeting sub-Saharan African markets. Vera is a Fellow of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (FPSN) and was also recently honoured with an ‘Eminent Person’ award by the National Industrial Pharmacists Association of Nigeria for her various contributions to the development of the Industrial Pharmacy Practice in Nigeria.