Power and utilities: reaching out to new customers
Take the power and utilities sector as just one example. Above the line, that means grid electricity, piped water and sewered sanitation, which is fine if you’re connected to this infrastructure. But what if you’re not and it’s not coming to your neighborhood anytime soon?
What if you’re one of the 844m people who still lack access to safe water?
In East Africa, Jibu is scaling a network of locally owned franchise businesses, which it equips with solar-powered filtration technology to clean locally sourced water that can be sold at a fraction of the cost of other commercially bottled water. With EY support to put in place the robust financial and operational controls needed to support rapid expansion plans, Jibu now has 75 franchises across 6 countries that have distributed nearly 100m liters of safe water to their surrounding communities.
What if you’re one of the almost 1b people still without access to electricity?
Impact enterprises, such as M-KOPA in Kenya, are making it possible for low-income families to purchase home solar systems with micro-payments using mobile technology. With EY help to streamline its operations and lower the cost of supporting its growing customer base, it’s connected 700,000 homes and financed more than 1.1m assets and services. Its customers are receiving 87.5m hours of fume-free lighting each month and are projected to save more than US$525m over the next four years vs. buying kerosene.
What if you’re one of the roughly 4.5b people around the world who lack access to safely managed sanitation?
In India, Tiger Toilets has come up with an ingenious answer to the problems of poor safety, bad odor and groundwater contamination that blight traditional pit latrine design. Their toilets use tiger worms to digest solid waste and convert it into small amounts of safe “vermicompost.” With EY support to define unit economics and a model for scaling the business, they aim to increase sales 10-fold, helping to drive major improvements in sanitation and public health across rural communities.
Starting ripples that can grow into huge waves of change
In and of themselves, EY projects with these life-changing businesses — and others like them — are already making a huge difference. They’re helping drive greater scale and impact by improving enterprises’ resilience, productivity and capacity for sustainable growth. In fact, it’s not uncommon for individual projects to be projected to changing hundreds of thousands of lives, so small wonder that alumni of these experiences invariably rank them among the most inspirational and rewarding of their EY careers.
Yet we believe this could be just the beginning of an even more substantial ripple effect. For example, with reports on container-based sanitation, last-mile distribution and safe water enterprises, we’re increasingly consolidating lessons learned from individual projects and translating them into insights and guidance that can help stimulate investment and shape the long-term growth of entire sectors.
This, too, could be just the tip of the iceberg. Consider that the combined purchasing power of consumers at the base of the pyramid has been estimated at around US$5t annually and that many large corporations are in a race to unlock the potential of these markets. To do so, they will need to develop a much deeper understanding of these markets, the challenges of reaching low-income customers and the business model “hacks” required to serve them equitably and sustainably.
This is where impact entrepreneurs live. As compelling as their stories are, more impressive still is that they’re succeeding in spite of massive resource constraints. They’ve already figured out answers to these seemingly intractable problems and, if big business takes the time to observe, draw inspiration and reverse innovate from their approaches, who knows what more might be achieved.