Gham Power empowers rural communities and smallholding farmers through income generating opportunities while displacing expensive and polluting fossil-fuel systems. Gham Power initially emerged in Nepal to serve commercial, urban customers as an alternative energy source during daily mandated power cuts that lasted around 15 hours a day. But, when this was eradicated, they realized they needed to adapt their business model.
Gham Power used their flexible funding from Frontier Innovators to develop the Off-Grid Bazaar, an online platform that aims to increase the reach of smallholding farmers to reliable and cost-effective irrigation solutions. The platform’s algorithm customises pumps to suit the farmer’s needs.
Gham Power initially planned to reach the farmers with their own field-based agents but realized that it was a challenge for them to identify credit worthy farmers and to collect the payment on a mass scale. As a result Gham Power pivoted to partner with ten microfinance institutions which have more than 350,000 farmer member networks, allowing them to join the project development platform and utilize their data in identifying the credit farmers and also their payment collection system. How does this help farmers access credit? Thuladhar explains, “Since financial institutions usually make investment decisions based on economic criteria or collateral, our platform quantifies the potential cash flow of a farmer and identifies the creditworthy/bankable farmers through the microfinance institutions.” To help off-set the cost of installing pumps, Gham Power has developed a subsidy model with Gham Power covering 30% of the system cost and the remaining 70% is financed by banks or MFIs. “The default rate is less than 5% which shows that we have been successful in increasing income of these rural farmers who in turn are paying back to banks and MFIs.”
According to Gham Power’s Chief Operating Officer, Sudeep Bir Tuladhar, “[t]his has opened up a new market potential of 2.5m farmers where we intend to scale.” To date, the platform has 500 users and Gham Power has installed an additional 100 solar irrigation systems serving an additional 3,000 beneficiaries.Gham Power has closed a deal for an investment of AUD 2.1 million from investors to help scale Off-Grid Bazaar.
Gham Power also designed and manufactured smart meters to be installed on their pumps to improve data-driven farming. The smart meters are equipped with sensors to collect data such as ph scale, soil moisture, water flow, etc. recommend cropping patterns based on the local condition that shall provide maximum yield. Tuladhar notes, “With the help of the platform and smart meters, farmers have improved access to financing their products and agri advisory services.” Currently, the OffGrid Bazaar has [updated figures from Sudeep post launch]. Further, Gham Power has equipped 75 pumps with smart meters. 70 of these pumps are owned by women farmers which has paved a way for economic participation of women in their communities. It is seen that with reduction in operating costs (no diesel) and increase in agricultural yield (by more than 80%) will result in an increase in income of a farmer by $2,400 per year. To learn more about their impact on farmers, visit https://offgridbazaar.com/impacts.
Finally, for Gham Power, these activities have helped diversify their company, “[w]e have been able to diversify our product line catering to both urban and rural customers which makes us more risk averse. This has further helped us create more impact for the rural farmers… we needed resources to pivot and without funding this wouldn’t have been able to go in this direction.”
Since Frontier Innovators, Gham Power completed GSBI Miller Center for 2019.