Off-grid electrification, using Solar Home Systems (SHSs), has become a viable alternative to conventional grid extensions in geographically dispersed rural Bottom of the Pyramid (BoP) markets, which are characterised as high-risk business environments. Using two SHS companies, Boond and Selco, as case studies, this article uses narrative interviews with key employees to identify the often overlooked, or invisible, micro-activities that social enterprises need to sustain themselves in rural BoP markets. This study examines the relationship between social entrepreneurship, rural BoP market characteristics, and challenges related to energy access, by combining the business model frameworks of social entrepreneurship and off-grid solar. Using narrative theory, it identifies three key activities and associated risks: community engagement, stakeholder management, and organizational capacity building. Social enterprises ought to engage in these three activities in order to manage the high-risk environment in the rural BoP markets. Community engagement bolsters social trust and results in customized solutions for the end-user; stakeholder management creates a favourable business environment and is a determinantal risk proposition; and finally, organizational capacity-building enables businesses to deliver reliable services, by increasing overall human resource management efficiency, while building social trust. Through a risk assessment of social entrepreneurial activities, practitioners and stakeholders can navigate the risk-based nature of rural SHS markets.
- Narrative analysis
- Rural Bottom of the Pyramid (BoP)
- Social entrepreneurship
- Solar Home Systems (SHS)