A for-profit product design & distribution company founded in early 2011, Greenway Grameen Infra aims to be the choice in home energy appliances for rural consumers. A lack of access to modern fuels forces rural consumers to rely on burning solid biomass (mostly wood & cow dung) in traditional mud cookstoves that emit dangerous & uncomfortable smoke. Our products provide a fuel-efficient, smoke-reducing, affordable alternative.
1) How did you conceive the idea of Greenway Grameen Infra? What kind of background research was it backed?
While traveling in parts of rural Maharashtra we saw the need for clean cookstoves. Most rural households had access to modern amenities and devices such as televisions, mobile phones, small bikes etc. however cooking remained to be done in a most archaic way. This ‘gap’ looked like a great opportunity in terms of serving a real need and building a business around it. Upon researching, we saw that many cookstove models and initiatives had been undertaken in the last few decades however none had taken off amongst consumers – the learning from this was to work on a design that was ‘purchase-worthy’. We spent nearly a year living in villages and peri-urban areas and developed over 10 different designs in consultation with users. While the underlying combustion technology was developed internally, it was important for us to ensure that the ergonomics and other user requirements were decided by the users themselves. We did this across 5 states primarily with women users.
2) What were the first few steps that you took to make it become a reality? How did incubation under IIM Ahmadabad help in getting you a head start?
Getting the product right was pretty much the first step. With CIIE’s support and brand we were able to convince suppliers to work with us apart from of course other benefits.
3) How does Greenway Smart Stove distinguish itself from existing models? What is its USP?
The underlying combustion technology for our stoves is a patent protected mechanism that ensures clean combustion on all biomass fuels, this along with the co-created ergonomics make our stoves both high performance and user-desirable/aspirational. Also, economies of scale in manufacturing allow us to sell our stoves at very competitive prices.
4) How has the funding received by CIIE been used to scale the model of Greenway Grameen Infra?
The funding has essentially helped us scale up our supply chain and serve demand being generated. Getting the supply chain right is critical before a ‘brick and mortar’ business such as ours can start building the distribution channels and requires substantial investment in terms of both money and systems.
5) Please elaborate about the need of Smart Stoves in India based on your experience? What are the key problems that it solves?
Over 65% of all households in India till date rely only on mud stoves for everyday cooking. Smoke emitted from these is known to be the number 1 health risk for women in South Asia, besides they lead to environmental damage on account of excessive fuel usage and carbon emissions. Our stoves save 65% fuel, reduce emissions by over 70% and make the cooking process faster and convenient.
6)What are other products that Greenway Grameen Infra is looking at?
Some very exciting home appliances are on their way!
7) What is your product pricing, marketing and scaling strategy to accelerate sales of these products?
We are best product at the very best price in the market. Sales are currently being done and scaled via retail outlets across the southern states. We are seeking to accelerate this process with good marketing/advertising initiatives.
8) Please tell us about the team. How has the present team members contributed to the success Greenway Grameen Infra has made today?
We started as a group of 3 starry-eyed engineers and now have grown to a team of over 100 people. In think internalising the problem initially i.e. becoming Chula users ourselves has enabled us to come up with a good product. Getting the right people to build a business around us thereafter has led to success.
9) Are you looking forward to expanding to other countries? Have you collaborated with any so far?
Yes, we already export to Mexico and are looking to expand in other countries/continents as well.
10)As an enterprise, what have been the biggest accomplishments for Greenway so far?
I think being able to build a profitable business around clean cookstoves/ a rural/middle India product is something we are proud of. We are now the market leader in this category with less than 3 years in sales.
11) What are some of the biggest challenges that you had to face so far and how did you overcome them?
Running brick and mortar start-ups is quite a challenge in itself. Setting up our own factory was one of the biggest challenges we had to overcome.
12) What is your advice to other budding social entrepreneurs?
Customer is Queen!
Stay very close to your customers and make sure you do everything possible to learn from them.