We have been blessed at ARTI to have two business-minded guys available to muse with us on business strategy for juabar. Yesterday, the technicians were offsite and we had some miscommunications on when they’d be back to go over the juabar designs. Instead we switched gears to better understanding the mobile phone charging market and unexpectedly had an extremely fun day of it.
Pin adapter commonly used to charge phone batteries, found at a grid-tied mobile charging stations in Bunju.
We took a bijaj taxi (see pic below) to the outskirts of Dar to a town called Bunju. There we noticed four grid-tied charging stations within an area of less than 100 meters, stiff competition at the edge of the grid. We interviewed these shop owners and learned that many folks from the interior communities travel or send their phones (sometimes just their batteries) to these mobile phone shops, which makes for why each had consistent numbers of daily customers.
Our bijaj getting loaded with square piping.
Godfrey, who is our Tanzanian colleague and fellow rabble-rouser on the business side, is awesome! He’s soft-spoken, calm and neatly dressed, and he delivered a happy surprise when he put us on motorcycles to visit a solar charging business in a very rural area outside of Bunju, called Kinondo. I forgot that renting motorcycle taxi drivers is normal here, and it’s the easiest way to access more distant areas with rougher roads. It’s outside the American mental model to trust a stranger enough to saddle up behind them on their ride, but when in Tanzania … we do as it is done! It was a great day at work on the back of a motorcycle and riding through a beautiful stretch of dirt road on a gorgeous sunny day.
Ride to find the SOLAR mobile phone charging station in rural Kidondo.
We learned from the rural solar charging station owner that hers was a new business that her family recently started, only one month old. The added value of solar in their home is watching TV and having lights, the business brings in steady additional income.
Today, we are having additional miscommunication on where is our builder. We miss Godfrey on his day off as we cannot just go off and buy our build of materials. Well, we could but everyone at the office is telling us to wait for James, our fabricator/builder, to get back and confirm the design with him first.
Juabar prototype birthday looking to be delayed until tomorrow ….
JUABAR’S BIG START!
Today marked the first design session with our partners at Appropriate Rural Technology Institute (ARTI). A day that started with a bit of anxiety on our part about leading a design process for a team that didn’t speak the same language or operate within our creative freedom felt a little unnerving.
Sachi, Godfrey and John check out juabar components at the ARTI offices.
Would they think we were nuts? Confusing? Could we bring our design chops to the Swahili table?
Last night we planned for today’s outcomes and nailed down how best to talk through our design principles and co-designing methods. We spent yesterday evening illustrating our concept and drawing out the community ecosystem where juabar would be introduced. Then we pinpointed what considerations we should detail based on our research: security, weight, durability, charge capacity, and mobility.
Unleashing our juabar components upon ARTI was like Christmas for the solar technicians. Unpackaging the Solar Nexus (the brain of juabar) and charge controllers fed the curiosity of these guys who work with electrical systems daily. The sales and admin staff were also getting in on the excitement and contributing to the process in their own ways.
The technicians of ARTI ideate on juabar concept! Excitement was felt by all!
The day was spectacular! At first it was a little slow going as we had to make sure our business partner, Godfrey, understood the juabar concept well enough to translate to the others. We unfurled markers, paper, drawings, tape and an openness to their input within the context of this project. While slow at first, once they fully understood the design concept for juabar, they were off and running, designing juabars, sailing forward with new ideas and considerations. At one point one of the business development guys wanted to talk about challenges for the entrepreneurs who would be running these juabars and off he went to create an initial SWOT analysis for us. Needless to say, the folks at ARTI are excited for the possibilities of juabar. We’re excited to share more as we enter Day 3 on the ground.
juabar co-design wall at ARTI!