Lighting the Way for Capitalism in the Developing World
Sam Goldman, co-founder of d.light, has figured it out. Investing in developing countries isn’t financially prohibitive, and it certainly doesn’t need to be purely charitable. The margin for growth is enormous in the developing world.
After living in Africa during his time in the Peace Corps Sam witnessed firsthand the dangers of using kerosene as a lighting source. He realized the need for a safe alternative form of lighting in Africa and the good that would come from an economic boost in the region as well. D.light anticipates selling their product to 100 million people in the bottom of the world’s income pyramid by the start of the next decade – and they are already halfway there.
Sam understood that change in developing world needs capitalism and the ability to put the power in the consumer’s hands. Here in a consumer culture like the US, we understand we have the power to shift the way a market caters to us, by purchasing the items we like, and not purchasing those that we don’t. But in developing countries, many have never been a consumer before. Now that they are in a driver’s seat with a solar powered light, they may never buy a kerosene lamp again. Which equals consumer control.
“When you become much more free market and capitalistic, things change so fast,” Goldman says. “[I knew] it was going to happen one way or another, and we could do it properly so it would have the most benefit for the poor and vulnerable.”
The key in Goldman’s statement is that profit will still come to those who want to help the poor and disadvantaged. Where there is a need for a useful product or service, consumers will flock to it, regardless of the consumer base’s affluence. If you can manufacture it at a price point that is easy to absorb for people in the bottom of the income pyramid, you have attached your product and the needs it addresses, to the largest income group in the world.
If you can make money, you should. If you can do good, you should. And there is nothing wrong with doing both at the same time.