Frontier Markets is helping to achieve both those goals in the Western desert state of Rajasthan, selling solar-powered products to hundreds of villages. The company is thriving by turning its customers into salespeople.
The company employs women to sell products like lamps, stoves, and even TVs that run on solar power through a program called Solar Sahelis (Solar Friends). Each woman is in charge of selling products to hundreds of rural households.
“We learned that while the customer — the person paying for the product — was a man, the person using the product was a woman,” Frontier Markets CEO Ajaita Shah said in an interview with CNN Business. “In fact, 70% of our users were women and that is when we realized that in order to properly serve the right households needs, women had to be at the center of that value chain,” she added.
Shah founded Frontier Markets in 2011, with the goal of providing clean energy to millions of rural Indians while also giving women a source of employment and income. The goals encapsulate some of India’s most urgent issues.
The 3,000 women that Shah employs have helped to provide energy to more than half a million village houses in Rajasthan, she said. The women communicate the benefits of clean energy to rural households, but also help Frontier Markets understand the kind of innovations that those households need most, she added.
“As India starts growing and moving and changing and evolving, especially with the digital revolution, women are still being left behind,” Shah said. “It’s really important for us to continuously invest in our women’s skills and their education to be able to catch up.”
“We are very proud of how we’ve been able to succeed with Frontier Markets,” Shah said. “It’s a part of my mission to make sure we understand that investing in women is not just an impact story but smart business and the key to end poverty.”