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eKOcool Solar Cooler program The birth of the idea The idea of the solar cooler was borne out of the realities of the Indian marketplace but chiefly a couple of factors (1) the need for safe hydration and packaged beverages as a safe, hydration option, when it is served chilled (2) the practical reality that most rural pockets in the country either have no or intermittent supply of electricity. The logistics for procuring ice, which the retailer use to chill the product, is cumbersome. Sometimes, the retailers have to fetch the ice from places as distant as 5 kms away and that too, the supply chain for ice is not reliable. Solar coolers, by harnessing sunlight, was a good solution to all this. The impact The eKOCool solar cooler program targets expansion in rural markets. The capacity of the solar cooler was initially restricted to 2 cases keeping in mind the cost, available space at retail outlets and the potential for sales. The increase in sales has been such that retailers are demanding a cooler with higher capacity. The solar cooler is bringing in first time retailers who were not selling Coca-Cola products before as well as first time consumers who have never consumed Coca-Cola products due to unavailability of chilled beverages. The program has thus been able to tap new rural markets for Coca-Cola. As the program expands, the increase in sales from existing retailers and emergence of demand from rural markets will encourage new retailers to crop up and thus benefitting both- retailers as well as Coca-Cola. The reach of the program The solar cooler has been installed across various rural areas pan India where availability of electricity is an issue. These coolers have also been exported to other countries like South Africa, Lebanon, Turkey, Tanzania, Papua New Guinea etc. Till now 1700+ has been installed in India and 400+ across other countries. Empowering women retailers Women entrepreneurs in rural India face several barriers – lack of physical and financial assets, lack of basic business training, cultural barriers in rural areas related to working women. Women are traditionally seen as helpers and not as managers – something that best be attributed to certain prevailing societal beliefs. Globally, we have this program called ‘5by20’, which aims at empowering 5 million women by 2020. We have integrated that focus with our efforts around seeding solar coolers in rural India and the initial results have been encouraging. The power of good commerce, is beginning to change traditional societal beliefs Expansion plans Till now 1700+ Solar Coolers have been installed across 5 states in India and we continue we expand the initiative. Coca-Cola distributes the solar coolers free of cost to women retailers in rural India and bears the associated financial cost itself. For the program to sustain and continue to benefit women retailers, the program may need to enter into strategic alliances with partners (possibly solar lantern manufacturers, telecom service and equipment suppliers, Government agencies) to share the costs and risks associated with scaling up – both the capacity of the cooler and the reach of the program. The program is extended pan India and we have solar coolers installed in rural areas of South, East, North and Central India across various states in Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Calcutta, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh. Editor’s Note In October 2013, the Deutsche Gesellschaft for Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, supported by the Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs (IICA) released a report titled ‘Responsible Corporate Engagement in Rural India: A Compendium of Good Practices’. The report seeks to enable and facilitate scaling up of responsible business practices by corporates in rural India. The eKOcool initiative and its contribution to empowering women retailers in rural India was showcased in this report under the segment. The complete report is available in the following web-link: Click Here




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