The Curious Case of an Indian Solar Company Lighting Up Villages in West Africa


Contributor: Anastasia Miller

There are stories of ideas, culture, religions and languages travelling across the world affecting people’s lives in different ways. Here is the story of how a single bulb taken as a souvenir turned into a gift for many families in Africa. Mr. Ram Mohan is the Consular General for India in Gambia and has spent many years travelling back and forth between the two countries. He didn’t think much about his inconspicuous little gift he received during the Indo-African Summit at NRDC in New Delhi in the year 2008. It looked like the Zonbulb would be lost in his shelves and forgotten forever. The product, though, defined itself on fine night when it was needed the most.

When the Consular General faced a power cut in his home, he immediately remembered the Zonbulb. It was a solar light bulb sitting on a shelf unused. He picked it up and hit the switch. Voila, there was light! It worked even though it hadn’t been used in almost 6 months. The Zonbulb looked like a miracle in a time of need. Another light bulb went off in Mr. Ram Mohan’s mind. A solar light bulb can practically be a lifesaver for the many unlit homes in the numerous villages in Africa.

The First Step

A few days after the power cut, Mr. Ram Mohan contacted Intelizon, the company that had gifted him the Zonbulb. He enquired about all the specifications of the product and was convinced that it was exactly what Africa needed. In Gambia, village folk were used to paying 25 cents a day for candles to light up their homes at night. It amounted to more than $90 a year which is much higher than what the Zonbulb cost. It had a lifetime of more than 6 years and cost only $75.

Light It Up

This made Mr. Ram Mohan embark on a noble mission called the ‘Light Up A Village Initiative‘. He made a foolproof strategy and set up a village lighting committee in each village. He then gathered sponsors and an amount of about $3500 was collected per village and lights distributed in every home. The committee began collecting an amount of 5 Cents from each home for the maintenance of the lights. This scheme was far more economical and convenient than the traditional candles that the villagers used.

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The Afterglow

The reactions from the village folk were amazing! They were delighted beyond measure and couldn’t believe that they could have light in their homes without electricity. Celebrations were in order as each village starting lighting up with the Zon. The real question now was how long the Zonbulb could go on without having to be replaced. The proven time until then was more than 6 years. The question was answered overtime as villages gave a very simple feedback with a grin every year. It keeps working!

The Aftereffects

The reliable solution turned the families’ lives around overnight. Since there was more consistent light in their homes at night, some members could now afford to increase their working hours. This directly increased everybody’s productivity and enhanced their incomes too. Children in every home could study without any hindrances. They no more depended on the flickering light of a wax candle. Education is the driving force for development in third world countries and the Zonbulb is able to show some ray of hope to the villages. In a way, the Zonbulb helps people and villages escape poverty. It advances the mission of the company Intelizon one light at a time. To create a world with clean and reliable energy!

Article and Image Courtesy: Anastasia Miller

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