SESA CALL FOR ENTREPRENEURS 2023
- PUE appliances
Michael Kuntz | Co-Founder & Co-CEO
Simusolar is the leading productivity-enhancing agricultural equipment provider for East Africa’s rural economy. Across Uganda and Tanzania, Simusolar is a business that increases productivity and incomes. At the last mile, they distribute equipment solutions that farmers, livestock keepers, and fishermen use in their work. Solutions include solar water pumps, solar generator replacement, cold chain, solar fishing lights, and more. They make equipment affordable through lease-to-own payment plans.
Simusolar was founded in Tanzania in 2014 and in Uganda as Tulima Solar in 2019. Simusolar’s mission is to increase the income of rural households through productive use equipment and services. They believe that rural prosperity can be realized in off-grid and weak-grid environments, where capital is often scarce but the opportunity for productivity gains is great.
Their value proposition is to make the tools for productivity accessible in every sense: physically accessible through distribution, financially accessible through credit, capability accessible through design, and risk-appetite accessible through ongoing service and warranty.
Their unique financing model breaks through traditional barriers to the use of irrigation equipment faced by smallholder farmers by providing:
Financed Irrigation Equipment Custom irrigation system design for any smallholder farm delivery, installation, warranty, and after-sales service.
Irrigation equipment empowers farmers to overcome many of the disruptions of climate change (SDG13) and means that farmers can maintain consistent agricultural productivity throughout the year. Simusolar’s equipment harnesses the power of solar energy (SDG7) to enable increased SMSE productivity. Smallholder farmers gain the capacity to irrigate their crops regularly, providing a reliable and continuous water supply that promotes steady growth and yield optimization. This enables smallholders’ resilience to the adverse effects of climate change, reducing their exposure to the risks associated with crop failures, food insecurity (SDG2), and income fluctuations (SDG1 and SDG8). These systems also mitigate climate change by replacing fossil fuels on a large scale. Each pump removes over 2 metric tons of CO2 per year.
With 2/3 of their clients below the poverty line, Simusolar has proven that their lease-to-own plans make solutions affordable to those most in need. 60 Decibels has surveyed many of their 20,000 clients and found increased yields in farming, increased incomes, time savings, and improvements in quality of life.
Simusolar is primarily B2C, though they do work with organizations and NGOs on larger-scale programs as well. While they view their value proposition as service-based, their revenue model is a combination of retail markup plus a financing service charge, not unlike interest. The markup is generated by equipment sales, whose components are purchased directly from manufacturers. Their cost structure is primarily people, as they are a knowledge- and service-driven business. Simusolar is strong in technology, logistics, service, sales distribution, credit, and finance. Many systems and much of their IP are in this operational coordination. Transportation is the second highest cost, as they serve the last mile. They have a firm understanding of how to successfully deliver solar-powered, productive-use equipment to Last Mile customers in a sustainable manner.
Simusolar provides products and services that are otherwise unavailable. With payment plans that range up to 22 months, clients build equity while immediately boosting their productivity. They have optimized payment plans by considering individual planting and harvest cycles so that irrigation-system customers are earning more money even while making payments on the pumps. The payment platform is integrated with the major mobile money providers, making it flexible and user-friendly.
Simusolar delivers a comprehensive irrigation solution for farmers, encompassing various services. The tailored approach begins with a custom system design, selecting from over 15 pumps based on individual farm requirements. Factors like water source depth and distance, elevation and size of the farm, and crops cultivated guide the pump selection process.
The solar array, tailored to the pump’s specifications and farm water demand, varies in size and electrical configuration. Simusolar provides flexibility in mounting options, offering roof- or pole-mounted arrays for optimal and secure placement. Wire and pipe lengths are specifically calculated to suit farm needs.
Control boxes enable system controls and facilitate pre-pay financing, including remote control and performance monitoring. Recognizing the investment nature of solar water pumping systems, Simusolar extends varied financing plans, easing financial strain for farmers. Flexible payment options spanning from 3 to 22 months have benefited numerous farmers across Tanzania.
Their service doesn’t stop at designing and financing. Simusolar handles the complete installation, including pumps, outlet and inlet pipes (for surface pumps), solar arrays, mounting structures, wiring, and controls.
The assurance of quality is embedded in their warranty and after-sales service. A generous 2-year warranty covers equipment and service for pumps, controls, and solar arrays. Even after this period, Simusolar commits to providing service at fair prices for their customers.
A dedicated toll-free customer service line ensures timely assistance for service requests.
For added efficiency, Simusolar offers optional drip irrigation systems, seamlessly integrated during installation, at an extra cost. This comprehensive suite of services underscores Simusolar’s commitment to delivering reliable and tailored irrigation solutions to enhance agricultural productivity.
In addition to solar water pumps and irrigation equipment, Simusolar provides a top-quality, IoT-monitored, controlled, and financed solar fishing light for thousands of nighttime fishermen on Lake Victoria. These lights replace the kerosene lanterns that were used before Simusolar came up with a better solution.
Simusolar has piloted some solar refrigeration and freezer products and is currently evaluating a number of productive-use products that can enable added smallholder productivity with storage and/or processing equipment. These can be financed, remotely controlled, and monitored using their custom control boxes on their existing payment platform.
Co-Founder and Co-CEO
Marianne has a Masters Degree in physics from Northeastern University in Boston and 30+ years of experience in the photovoltaic energy industry, including 15 years in Tanzania.
Co-Founder and Co-CEO
Michael has an MBA from the University of Virginia-Darden and 12+ years of experience in financial services at Fortune 500 companies, including microfinance, corporate finance, risk management, and structured products.