Key Operational Aspects:

1.     Technology – Linking Mobility to Renewable Energy - Tackling Battery Charging through Community Off Grid Power

Bikes have been around for a long time and played a critical role in mobility in many Asian countries.  In many parts of Sub Saharan Africa, while bikes and motor bikes have contributed to transport and mobility, it is not considered a critical household asset or used widely. Motorbikes are dependent on fuel, more expensive and often cannot carry heavy load.

With new technology advances in both push bikes and small electronic bikes as well as other types of vehicles, there is great scope to adapt this to more utilitarian purposes for new contexts.

As many rural communities are underserved by paved roads, there is great scope to tailor models to suit these conditions.  There is also great need to better use bikes to carry materials, from water, to crops to other goods, that could facilitate the great demand for transport. With the advent of renewable energy and new ways to power and store power, the potential for this to be used to revolutionise the ability to provide affordable transport solutions to low income women in Sub Saharan Africa.

On average a battery for a tricycle requires 8 hours to recharge fully.  To overcome this challenge, we will aim to experiment in the pilot phase with a system for battery swapping.  This will allow a battery to be exchanged for a small cost.  The idea will be to use initially a blended charging system that requires a combination of renewable and generator power.  The intent will be to work to develop an off grid charging capacity that collectively services a community’s needs and complements the household capacity.

By setting up a mobile container office, working space and battery charging center in the pilot areas, we will be able to service users with repairs, lessons on bike riding as well as provide a central place to charge batteries. While household solar power is becoming more affordable, even to rural populations, we appreciate that this will not provide enough energy to service all the households needs as well as charge an electric battery.

2.     Innovation

As the advent of shared bikes in China have demonstrated, there is great scope to use new innovations to use apps to track, create shared transport and allow for a range of services to be provided with a holistic approach.  The idea is to adapt this technology by developing a mobile app, that could be used to provide services.  The app would be developed to provide quick to fix maintenance tips, tracking services to avoid theft, allow for online finance payments, as well as help create a network to fix, use and sell transport.

 3.     Brand/ Communication

This initiative is not just to import and sell a product but rather to change behaviour and increase the uptake of bikes and new types of electronically powered transport solutions.  The branding and communication strategy will be targeted clearly to women, built in a way that reinforces their empowerment through access to mobility. It will be aspirational and positive reinforcing the value of this investment in a way that can transform a rural woman’s life. While there are a lot of goods being sold to the low-income households, usually these goods are made cheaply, likely to not last long and often without any brand or communication loyalty.Communication will be a critical component of the business model.  It will focus on supporting community events and rebuilding the image of women being able to transform their lives with increased access to mobility.

4.     Micro Finance

While the target market, women, especially in rural areas, have limited access to finance, proof from many small credit financing schemes, illustrate that women are very reliable in paying back loans, especially with fair terms and conditions.By creating an arm of the business that provides low income financing to those most in need, but who are not part of the formal banking system.  This low- income financing, will seek to allow terms that return the financing over time and allow new found mobility to increase the household’s productivity and livelihoods.

5.     Distribution / Sharing Networks - Mobile Lady Agents
To create jobs and create an effective distribution system to reach not just urban markets, but target rural communities.  The model will create a network of agents that can provide services in target communities.  They will act as a sales agent, provide rent sharing on vehicles, identify ways to promote a cultural shift in bike riding culture, provide maintenance and facilitate the low-income financing. These agents will be trained and equipped to maintain the quality of the brand and ensure that there is coherence to the model.  Supported by a central hub in the target areas, they will be provided with the technical support they need. 

6.     Subsidiary services

If we are to change the culture towards bikes and mobility for women, we need to overcome gender stereotypes, access to credit and shift cultural behaviour, we need to make sure that the bike owning/ bike sharing experience is positive.  To do that, the business model needs to focus on creating a culture around bike riding, as well as facilitate repairs and maintenance. If a bike breaks down and cannot be fixed, the investment will neither provide an economic return or create loyalty to the product.  These services are intended to ensure the holistic and positive experience that can contribute to empowering women and build trust that ultimately leads to sustained use and return on the investment.

The Mobile Lady agents will be equipped to run these services through a central support system. 

a.     Maintenance/ Repair

b.     Lessons to ride bike

c.     Bike sharing/ transport services