Imagine a world where low-income communities can meet their domestic energy needs with affordable, renewable energy products. Today, Jaan Pakistan, winner of the Rwanga Social Startup Competition, researching and manufacturing affordable energy solutions, is turning this ambition into a reality. One of our global correspondents spoke with the startup’s founder, Khizr Imran Tajammul.
Can you tell us about the founding of Jann Pakistan and what problem are you addressing?
In early 2014, after almost eight years of designing and executing behavior change communication campaigns for a number of international development organizations, I realized I wanted to conceive an independent development project, where cash flows were not entirely vulnerable to changes in donor policy or funding. The idea was to help alleviate energy poverty through a market-driven approach.
In the summer of 2007, I was a motivational speaker for an advocacy campaign on water conservation and addressing a group of students in the city of D.G. Khan, in Pakistan. After my speech, the students complained about how they didn't have any water to conserve in the first place. My message was disconnected from the reality of the community, and the efficacy of the campaign suffered because of this.
It was the first time in D.G. Khan that I felt frustrated about not involving the communities that our project heads wished to serve, but it certainly wasn’t the last time I felt that way. Furthermore, advocating change and not offering tangible solutions for communities to adopt, only worsened my sense of loss.
Khizr Imran Tajammul founder of Jaan Pakistan
Photo from Khizr's LinkedIn account
In early 2014, when I finally gathered the courage to resign from my job and start my own work, I was terrified about the many uncertainties that confronted me. I was desperate to commit to an idea that was sustainable and meant something to me. A good friend, and now Business Advisor to Jaan Pakistan on Product Development, Muhammad Ali Chishti, introduced me to a host of TED talks and other inspirational material in the realm of social development. Bunker Roy’s TED talk about the Barefoot College in Rajasthan, India, and its success in training thousands of grandmothers across 74 countries through sign language, in the art of developing solar electrification units, left a lasting impact on me. It got me thinking about energy poverty and the possibilities for similar work in Pakistan.
In the summer of 2014, I founded Jaan Pakistan - a clean energy startup dedicated towards researching and manufacturing affordable energy solutions for low-income communities across Pakistan..Running a socially motivated business has been vastly different from designing behavior change communication campaigns. Jaan Pakistan has had to develop both relevance and efficiency through human-centered product designs and we have pivoted numerous times since 2014 to understand and meet consumer demands. Our work is no longer entirely contingent on a single source of funding, or the changing policies of a project partner. Instead, we listen to our customers, and give them what they need.
In October 2014, Jaan Pakistan won the Rwanga Social Startup competition, and Prof. Muhammad Yunus awarded us USD 20,000 in terms of seed funding. We finally had a set of wheels to move forward, and we have not looked back since.
Khizr and other start-up innovators with Prof. Muhammad Yunus featured in Vanity Fair for One Young World
Photo from Jaan Pakistan
Why does the company exist? What is its main value proposition?
4.3 million deaths every year are caused by indoor air pollution associated with burning firewood. 40% of Pakistan's 200 million population lives in off-grid areas and these communities primarily depend on firewood and dung cakes for thier domestic energy needs. Currently, Pakistan is losing 47,000 hectares of forest cover every year to produce its energy need. 25% of global warming is attributed to the use of firewood of traditional cook stoves. Clean cooking alternatives like gas cylinders are either unavailable, too expensive, or sometimes potentially fatal.
The Jaan Pakistan Supreme Stove is our flagship product. It is made primarily from 16 gauge mild steel sheets - a readily available robust and affordable metal that is cut, rolled, riveted and welded to form the stove. Tin chimneys for our stove are readily available in the northern parts of Pakistan, including Azad Jammu Kashmir, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit Baltistan and can be directly procured by the customer from almost any market. The use of chimneys nearly eliminates indoor household air pollution and its availability across our retail markets is critical to the success of our fuel efficient design.
Jaan Pakistan's Super Stove
Photo from Jaan Pakistan
The Supreme Stove cooks a given amount of food faster than a traditional three-stone stove and it reduces fuel consumption by nearly 40%. Our customers have mentioned how the decrease in fuel consumption has resulted in a significant increase in their monthly savings. In winter months, the Jaan Pakistan Supreme Stove can also be used indoors as a room heater. Most importantly, however, our stove protects our customers from harmful fumes, that generally irritate women as they cook, even if they don’t understand the long term ill-effects of inhaling firewood fumes.
Outcomes from a recent pilot project and a product lab test from the Centre of Rural Technology in Nepal suggests that our flagship product saves 750 Kgs of wood a year and up to PKR 700 per month, per household - a significant number for a low income household in Pakistan.
Women use Jaan Pak's Super Stove while cooking.
Photo from Jaan Pakistan
Please tell us how your products will impact communities.
Socio-Economic Impact: From our pilot project in rural areas around Lahore, we’ve found that households can save around PKR 500-700 a month by using our stove. This amount is significant for a low income family in Pakistan and is expected to be higher for households in areas where fuel is scarce or consumption is higher (due to a colder climate for example). Through our female entrepreneur distribution model we will empower women by providing them with a source of income; each woman is expected to earn PKR 30,000 a month through a combination of a commission-based revenue and a fixed salary.
Health Impact: 3 billion individuals across the globe are vulnerable to the ill effects of inhaling firewood fumes that emanate from open fires. Nearly 50% of Pakistan’s population is exposed to such fumes, and according to the World Health Organization, more than 100,000 people succumb to fatal respiratory illnesses each year, mostly women and children. Our stove will eliminate indoor household air pollution, and prevent fatal respiratory illnesses across our customers.
Women cooking their food in the Jaan Pak's Super Stove during their field operation
Photo from Jaan Pakistan
Where do you see the company in the coming years?
In FY 2018-2019, we plan on : (1) entering new markets (2) deepening our penetration in existing markets and (3) launching a new product line. In 2017, we conducted four commercial pilots in four distinct geographies across the country - this helped us understand our potential to scale within Pakistan better. In 2018, we plan on adding 40 new female entrepreneurs in each of the four regions every year. Within five years, our target is to develop a network of at least 135 entrepreneurs. Realistically, this should allow us to sell up to 330,000 stoves a year. In the long term, we plan to diversify into other renewable energy products, such as solar electrification for households, solar water pumps for agrarian use, and so on.
Do you think that the company will ever need outside investors?
We estimate that Jaan Pakistan will break even within FY 2019. Assuming that we are able to keep the cost of producing a single cookstove down to $16 and successfully sell around 50,250 stoves a year, the organization will be able to cover all personal, retail and transportation costs. Until 2019, we plan on funding our operations through multiple additional research grants and impact investment funds.