Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of d. light Solar Limited, Ned Tozun, shares his views about the Nigerian market, especially at it concerns the acceptability of solar system and how fake products can be checkmated. Raheem Akingbolu brings the excerpts.
As a stakeholder in Nigeria’s marketing space and with your experience over the years in trying to push your products, how can issues related to fake products be controlled?
From any angle one chooses to look at it, fake products, adulteration or whatever name we call it, kill businesses and the economy. Now to the question on how it can be checkmated. First, stakeholders in the market must cooperate with government to condemn the ugly situation in its entirety. Secondly, institutions must be respected by all the parties and regulation must be strengthened by the government and agencies concerned.
Narrow it down to your segment of the market, what advice can you offer the government on checkmating fake solar products?
Government is doing a great job but we still need tighter regulations because fake solar products still come in through the borders.
Another advice to the government is to implement a renewable energy policy especially for solar technology that will reduce or remove entirely, custom duties placed on solar energy products. Paying as much as 20 per cent negatively affects everyone in the industry and makes solar products quite expensive. Finally, for them to empower the organisations and agencies that are supposed to certify these products are good.
Having said that, Nigeria is an interesting market you will agree with me, probably because of our challenges when it comes to power. Fake products are many in the market and they don’t last long but you can always tell the difference when you see the good ones and this applies to all products. A fake product may enjoy good packaging but with time, a sophisticated consumer will know the truth.
In the segment where we operate, there are millions of fake products. What distinguishes d.light from every other solar brand is that our products are quality-verified from Lighting Global. Lighting Global is an institution that certifies the quality of any solar product in the world.
Secondly, we are bold enough to offer our customers two years’ warranty, if you buy our product and anything happens to it within two-years, please return it because that is how confident we are about our product’s quality. If our products are not of high quality, we would not offer a 2-year warranty.
Thirdly, we have offices strategically located all over Nigeria. We also have our sales representatives and Experience Centers across the country where you can take the product to if anything happens.
When your product is great there is a tendency for it to be imitated, have you encountered such in Nigeria?
There are so many people who have tried to create fake versions of our products by copying the look and feel but we have somethings embedded that they cannot copy and in addition we work with the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON), to identify these fake products and they locate the perpetrators.
How do you get the products across to the rural people who need electricity but are not easy to get across to?
We have a robust route-to-market strategy and we utilize sales offices strategically located across the country even in rural areas of Nigeria. We also have a dedicated sales team that focuses more on the rural areas, they are familiar with the people, their language, and they sell to the community effortlessly.
Secondly, we have created indirect employment to thousands of people and partnered with Small and Medium Enterprises such as Electrical Shops across the country to increase the accessibility of our affordable solar products to Nigerians. So anywhere you go you will find our products.
Solar portables need sunlight to charge but some people can’t charge the portable devices outside for fear of it being stolen or like this period of rainfall, how can one charge it?
For d.light Solar products you don’t need intense sunlight to charge. Our products are manufactured to capture the smallest ray of light from the sun. This is possible because the company controls the entire production chain from design, manufacturing, and sales. So you don’t really need direct sunlight to charge the product especially our portable lamps, and that is one of the unique features of d.light Solar.
Who is qualified to engage in the solar business, because it looks like an all-commerce business?
d.light Solar products are designed in the USA by professionals who are intellectually and technically sound. The business or commercial aspect of solar energy development also requires skilled manpower to operate. I am proud to say that at d.light Solar, our multi-cultural team of experts from our founders and design team in America to our highly skilled Nigerian team and our teams across the world, we have cracked the code in accelerated solar energy development in Nigeria and 64 other countries where we sell our products.
How Nigerian is d.light Solar Nigeria?
d.light Solar Nigeria is a Nigerian company being managed by Nigerians at all levels. From our Managers to our Solar Energy Promoters on the streets, we are grateful to our global leadership for reposing so much trust in our ability to deliver affordable, reliable and high-quality solar products to Nigerians without any compromises.
We have been seeing the marketing and sales activations by your company, aside from these, what other tools are you using to communicate the brand?
We deploy Below The Line (BTL) and Above The Line (ATL) strategies in communicating our products and their benefits. We also engage in roadshows, trade activations and word-of-mouth approaches to communicate the benefits of our solar products.