Quest

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Quest: A Sustainable Energy Technology Start-up in Uganda

Kampala, UgandaKampala, Uganda
Year Founded:
2015
Organization type: 
for profit
Project Stage:
Start-Up
Budget: 
$500,000 - $1 million
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Majority of rural communities in Uganda do not have access to electricity, and thus use inefficient and unclean stoves. Our solution is a triad of sustainable energy solutions in the form of smart stoves, fuels and lights.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if we could put smart stoves, smart fuels and smart lighting sustainable energy technologies in every rural household?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Rural communities and households in Uganda are grappling with problems of energy infrastructure. Those with access to electricity can't afford it because it is expensive thus households are forced to use traditional mud cook-stoves and lighting solutions that emit smokes which are harmful to the environment and to their health. Alternatives to these are either expensive, not customized to their needs or are also inefficient.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Ours is a human-centric solution that involves communities in the design and manufacturing stages of sustainable energy technologies in the form of smart cooking stoves, clean fuels and smart lighting solutions which are cheap, efficient and clean. By involving these communities in the process, we are able to appeal to their desires and aspirations and clearly meet their needs in a customized and user friendly way.

Awards

No awards or honors have been received yet
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

The two greatest needs of every rural household are cooking and lighting. Because of limited access to electricity in most rural communities, either because there's no infrastructure or because it's expensive, most communities use traditional mud-stoves and firewood for cooking purposes while using smoke-emiting lamps for lighting. We make a difference by offering our affordable, clean and efficient smart stoves that reduce emissions by over 70%, cook food in less time. We also offer our fuels mainly in form of briquettes that solves reliance on charcoal and firewood and finally offer smart lighting solar solutions thus eliminating a need for lanterns.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

We are still in the start-up phase and are thus yet to launch our first product on the market. However, we've already created awareness through word-of-mouth and thus many people are excited about being part of this social movement. Our projected future impact is to cut down greenhouse gas emissions by 70% in at least half of the rural homesteads of Uganda in a period of 5 years' time. Since our stoves cook in less than 50% of the time, we shall have reduced forest depletion by the same percentage. And with people adopting our smart fuels, we shall reduce reliance on firewood and charcoal. And finally reduce reliance on costly lanterns through our solar lighting solutions. Above all, we aim at having manufacturing plants in Uganda that will give employment to majority of the unemployed Ugandan youths.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

Our first strategy is to get influential leaders such as politicians, religious and traditional leaders in every community, per 100 persons to endorse our products and be one of the early adapters. Our second strategy is to partner with local small retail shops and stores that are already known to the residents in these communities, these will be our distribution channels. Our third strategy will involve partnering with local saving and credit cooperatives and other local micro-financing institutions to enable our customers to pay for the products (stoves and lights) over a period of time.
Sustainability

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

First and foremost is to design and manufacture products that are desirable, clean, cheap, user friendly and efficient. Our first solution is to get the product right. Secondly, we plan on making it as cheap as possible as we plan to sell to as many people as possible and enjoy economies of scale. Finally is to get out distribution channels right through proper sales and marketing mechanisms, and offering affiliate-based models.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

There is a startup in Uganda known as Bulungi Bwansi that's trying to address the same problem through making of gasifiers and biofuels. There are also a number of biogas and solar enterprises. However, most of these focus on the urban market. Those that focus on the rural communities do not involve them in the design stage and use different distribution channels that are largely inefficient and expensive. Ours is a bottom-up approach since it involves clients in the design, manufacturing and distribution stages, making them own the solution.
Team

Founding Story

The idea was first conceptualized during my University studies in Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering. Since I was specializing in energy in my final year, it suddenly hit me when I remembered the challenges my relatives went through in the countryside when cooking their food and getting light during the night time. They had to collect firewood, they had to put up with smoke emissions from the mud-stoves. I knew I was at the right person at the right time to meet these two needs in a modern and convenient way for these rural communities. And with the United Nations moving from MDGs to SDGs, I knew this was the moment to offer sustainable energy solutions with a creative approach.

Team

A number of people are involved in this project. One of those is my elder brother who's an Electrical Engineer and will head the Smart Lighting Department. My other brother, an IT expert will handle the online operations. Myself, I oversee the business development, and also head the cooking stoves and fuels department. As we evolve, I will move full-time into Business Development. We shall have the following departments: Research and Development, Manufacturing, Distribution, Sales and Marketing, Finance and Human Resource Departments.
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