Yesterday, we carried a story that on a new partnership between Azuri technologies and Wananchi’s Zuku in launching a pay-as-you-go satellite TV package targeting households without electricity in Kenya. The service combines solar home power, 24-inch TV, satellite dish and Zuku Smart+ entertainment package with 48 TV and 21 radio channels. The package will offer 5 hours of normal TV viewing per day, a solar home system providing four home lights, mobile phone charging and a rechargeable portable radio.
Azuri has a presence in 12 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and is based on technology built in Cambridge. The firm has been offering its customers a whole range of products based on various ranges. The entry-level range offers the customer just two bulbs to power their lighting needs. The mid-level package offers customers 4 bulbs for lighting, a charger for mobile devices and chargeable radio. The latest product to launch is the Azuri Pay-go that includes satellite TV, lighting, radio and mobile phone charging.
Azuri Pay-Go TV Product
The product houses a package that offers the consumer the solar technology, satellite television and service guarantees. The package comprises of the solar panel, 24 inch LED TV, a tiny torch, 4 lights, a tiny radio, wiring connection and an 18 ampere, Lithium ion phosphate battery which according to the CEO is what you get in a Tesla Electric car. This allows for the storage of power, which can then be used to power the needs of the customer through into the night. Everything is branded Azuri.
The television offered eliminates the need for the consumer to have a separate set-top box for their viewing needs. “When seeking to access television, you go to a satellite provider and buy a box that plugs into the mains. We have broken down all these aspects and brought the capabilities inside the television and further optimized the same for solar,” says Azuri CEO.
To use the solution, the customer pays Kshs. 150 per day, where you send money to a Paybill via M-Pesa and get a token to feed to the box upon completion of the payments. If you don’t redeem the token it stays valid, with the standard fee remaining at Kshs. 150, whether the customer maxes the usage or not. Going forward, Azuri will work with other content providers, not limited to Zuku. In the future, the price may be different for various packages. Assume you want the free-to-air solution, the box will be unlocked when you’re done paying.
Buyers will have paid a total of Kshs 109,500 at the end of the 2 year period. A steep figure which Azuri says is to cater to the hire purchase financing risk as well as the tech involved to manage it.
The solution is also powered by Homesmart, a cloud-based box that studies how the user consumes power. Upon installation, the first two weeks will be spent studying the consumption habits with the view of aligning them with user needs. For instance, Azuri will dim lights or TV and ensure one can have power for longer.
Speaking to Techweez, Azuri Technologies CEO Simon Bransfield-Garth said, “Power is game changing and we don’t want people to wait for it. We know it changes prospects and their lives completely hence our thinking in offering a bundled solution that includes information and entertainment capable of changing their lives. We see power as a leveler and it means the person in the village has as much potential as the guy in the urban centers”.
“There are 600 Million people in Sub-Saharan Africa off the grid. Azuri is currently serving 500,000 of these in 90,000 households. What solar and our product does is to give people the access to energy faster. Kenya has been working to power more households but that is not the case in all other African countries. Our solution allows for faster roll- out as there are no power stations to be built or cable to be set up,” Simon comments on the potential of solar.
Simon says there are also receiving interest from people already connected to the grid, who see the solution as a possible alternative. “We call these the intermission grid customers, who may view the grid as less reliable and as such have solar as backup”, he says.
Solar energy has often been viewed as quite expensive due to the high initial set-up costs as well as high repair costs. We sought to know what Simon thinks of that. “Indeed solar is quite expensive as you are buying your own power station, but with our pay-as-you-go service, you are spreading the costs over a longer period of time,” he says. “This is a complement to grid power and to the rural customer, the model is an opportunity to pay over time for something they can afford and not have a liability over,” he added.
Warranties and Distribution
So what happens if my Television set is yanked off? So far there is no arrangement for that as far as we could tell, but Azuri is considering an insurance plan for the set-up. “One of the core tenets of our product is service guarantees. We want to offer the customer a product that works and as such, they can pay for it,” said Simon.
Simon says they have deployed PKI Cryptography to ensure all the pieces in the package share the same code and as such stolen, one piece cannot work without the others, rendering it useless to one who steals. At the same time, the warranty provided is as long as the customer is paying the Kshs. 149 a day, upon which Azuri will fix all problems that may emerge from the solution. After that, they may charge a small fee for the same.
Azuri is also working with an expansive agent network as well as partners now numbering 550. In addition to selling the solution, these individuals provide expertise in solving some of the small problems the solution may have as well as explaining additional features of the device. “At the end of the day, we want to offer the customer a product and service, and provide it well.”