While India’s economy doubles in size roughly every 9 years, it is a shame that over half the population—600 million people—are yet not on the electric grid. The country’s highly regulated energy sector continues to be mired in corruption and bureaucracy, curbing its growth. Over 130 years after the invention of the light bulb, 1.6 billion people worldwide still have no access to electricity, mostly for similar reasons. On top of that, most households with access to the grid get limited power. The village of Bhandgaon, in the relatively prosperous industrial state of Maharashtra, gets just 12 hours of power a day, alternating between day and night each week. As a result, most households still use dangerous kerosene lamps to read, cook or to simply walk around every day.
In 2007, Stanford MBA graduates Sam Goldman and Ned Tozun embarked on a journey to change all that. As part of a class at Stanford’s Institute of Design, they designed a low cost solar-powered LED lamp prototype. They decided to commercialize the project with the launch of D.light Design, and in less than 3 years have sold to over 1 million consumers in 30 countries. D.light launched in India with a product called Nova. The Nova provides up to 12 hours of bright light on a day’s charge, and doubles up as a mobile phone charger. It is 8-10 times brighter than a kerosene lamp, 30-50% more efficient than a fluorescent light and costs about $30. Today, D.light has 3 products including the Solata and the Kiran. The Kiran provides 8 hours of light on a day’s charge and is 4 times brighter than a kerosene lamp. Launched in October 2009, the Kiran is dubbed the “kerosene killer.” It costs just $10, making it the most affordable quality solar lantern in the world. It provides 360-degree illumination, which is good for cooking, working, studying or traveling.
D.light is unique amongst companies in its space, in that its products are designed with tremendous consumer focus and using the world’s best design principles. For example, the Kiran is portable, can be hung from a wall or ceiling, or placed on any surface. The Nova was designed to be water resistant and protect from dust and large insects. With 80 people and offices in India, China and Africa, the company has also built a deep sales and distribution infrastructure. It has the backing of major venture capital firms including the Acumen Fund, Nexus Venture Partners and Draper Fisher Jurvetson, giving it the financial muscle to move quickly. D.light aims to touch 100 million consumers by 2020.
D.light’s social impact is far reaching. First, its products completely eliminate the need for kerosene lamps. Low income households spend 5-30% of their income on kerosene, so D.light products pay for themselves in as little as 6 months. Second, bright light supports income-generating activities such as agriculture and retail. The United Nations Development Program estimates that families with improved lighting have up to a 30% increase in income due to improved productivity at night. Next, D.light customers report that children’s study time increases by a factor of 2 to 4 times after purchasing a solar lantern, resulting in greater learning and higher test scores. By removing the need for kerosene lamps, D.light products also solve the problem of indoor air pollution. The UN Millennium Development Goals Report estimates that indoor air pollution from kerosene lamps claims the lives of 1.5 million people each year. They are also the cause of numerous deaths from suffocation, burns and fires. Finally, every kerosene lamp removed from a household removes 1 ton of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere over 5 years. Kerosene lamps are currently responsible for 100 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere, making it amongst the largest sources of greenhouse gases in developing nations. Planet Earth will certainly not miss them! To learn more about D.light, visit http://www.dlightdesign.com.