“One mobile tower and lantern at a time”
“The happiness on his face was the same as I had on the day that my father bought me the first television. This was in 1972. Seeing the boy and his reaction, I felt both happy and sad. Happy because you see that you’re contributing to bringing smiles to the boy and his family. Sad because in 2012, people have to be happy to get a lantern in this country.”
– Rohit Chandra, COO of OMC Power (@RohitChandraOMC)
Over the past few months, our newsfeed has been abuzz with the changes impacting our mobile industry partners in India. From July’s historic blackout which left 620 million people without power but with mobile coverage, to TAIPA’s plans to outsource green power to 100,000 towers, these events reflect the scale of the energy challenges India faces and the void the mobile industry is trying to fill.
In the midst of all of this, as correctly noted by Justin Guay of the Sierra Club in the Huffington Post, a landmark 10-year deal was signed between Bharti Infratel and OMC Power to build and operate micropower plants that are capable of delivering power to mobile towers and the community. To further illustrate the importance of this event, this is the first deal of its size where both telecom AND community energy requirements are part of the business plan from Day1.
Since then, OMC Power has been featured on both the BBC and most recently on Forbes. As noted in the Forbes article community uptake has surpassed OMC’s expectation reaching 30% penetration within 45 days. Thus you can imagine our delight when we had the opportunity to spend the day with the team at OMC Power at their site in Uttar Pradesh to see what everyone was talking about.
While it is too soon to call their model a runaway success, there are several things we observed about OMC Power which is setting them on the right path.
Getting the basics right
OMC Power realises that what makes their model bankable–what makes their business model a credible investment decision–is to ensure that they deliver on their core business promise: providing steady power supply to their mobile industry customers. Before venturing out to serve communities, the company stabilised its services to the mobile tower.
Delivering high-quality services to the community
With over 200 million people, Uttar Pradesh is India’s most populous state. While reported electrification rates in the state are 88.3%, it is important to note that for a region to be deemed electrified it does not mean that all households have to be connected, or that power actually needs to run through the lines. Many of the villages we visited served by OMC Power have been waiting for close to 10 years to see electricity run through their grid. OMC focusses on delivering high-quality 24/7 services to their rural customers commensurate with their income levels. Smartly dressed OMC staff deliver and pick-up customers’ energy products to their doorsteps, and sleek nameplates affixed to homes identify OMC customers in the community helping neighbours recognise the most progressive of households. OMC Power has also put special emphasis on delivering “luxury” services providing a fan as part of the OMC PowerBox ( or BijiliBox as it known locally in Hindi).
Innovate and Evaluate
By making community power central to OMC Power’s strategy, they have made understanding the wants and needs of rural customers an essential component of their business strategy. In the few months since launching field operations, they have focussed on a process of continual innovation and evaluation: listening to customer feedback, testing new products and working with suppliers to adapt products to suit customer needs.
The company understands the need to develop a series of products that supports their customers’ transition up the energy ladder; starting with lighting and phone charging. Over the next few months, we expect OMC to continue to push the innovation envelope, trialling new concepts and getting more granular on customer segmentation.
We look forward to following the progress of OMC Power over the next few months. We believe their entry into the markets paves the way for other energy service companies serving the mobile industry to pilot Community Power.
What follows is a photo slideshow of our visit to OMC Power in Uttar Pradesh. To view photo captions, expand to full screen mode.