London-based private equity fund manager Apis Partners and other investors announced disbursement of $60 MM in new funding to Greenlight Planet Inc., the leading provider of off-grid solar products and solar financing for underserved populations around the world with a focus on Africa and India.
Greenlight Planet, a growth-stage company with a mandate to deliver social as well as financial returns, disclosed that it has been profitable in each of the last 10 financial quarters. Greenlight’s profitability is unique in the off-grid solar industry, in which several companies have found readily-available investment and growth, but struggled to demonstrate sustainability.
Greenlight Planet announced that it now operates the world’s largest direct-to-consumer, pay-as-you-go (PAYG) solar product distribution business, with over 2,400 company-managed sales agents in five countries, selling more than 25,000 solar products to off-grid consumers each month.
Using mobile money systems, customers pay for their solar energy products over time, for as little as 25 cents per day. After six to eight months, they own the solar product outright, making solar energy more affordable than traditional electrical grid power.
Greenlight’s line of Sun King™ solar-powered products, now used by nearly 30 million consumers in 62 countries, includes lighting, home energy systems, phone chargers, radios, fans, and soon-to-be-released televisions.
The company began selling affordable solar home systems just three years ago, and has sold nearly 600,000 to date, now at a rate of over 1,000 solar home systems per day. Greenlight Planet partners with a network of more than 100 distributors, including retailers, NGOs, and over 40 micro-finance institutions, to provide sales and service for off-grid communities in 62 countries.
Financing of off-grid solar home systems is a step toward broader financial inclusion for rural, unbanked consumers in emerging markets across Africa and Asia: Consumers without previous access to credit can build a credit history via the PAYG payment model, enabling Greenlight to offer them additional products and financial services in the future.
Greenlight Planet will use the new debt and equity capital to expand its solar-energy product lines, distribution networks, and financing capabilities in Africa and Asia. There, over a billion people lack reliable access to electricity, finding it too expensive or unavailable.
Patrick Walsh, Co-Founder & CEO of Greenlight Planet, said that “Today, for less than the cost of a single electrical pole, we can provide a solar home system with enough energy to power a complete range of appliances needed by rural consumers. Apis’s investment will allow us to continue rapidly expanding access to these life-changing products.”
Anish Thakkar, Co-Founder of Greenlight Planet, added, “We look forward to drawing upon the expertise of Apis Partners to consolidate our market-leading position, building on our mission to connect off-grid, unbanked populations to power and to financing. This is a first step toward solutions for an expanded range of life necessities, from cookstoves to fans, TVs, and more.”
Matteo Stefanel, Co-Founder and Managing Partner at Apis, noted, “We are excited to partner with Greenlight Planet to serve over 1 billion underserved and unbanked customers with no access to electrification or financing. As the first consistently profitable, and hence proven-sustainable, company in the off-grid solar industry, Greenlight Planet is leading the off grid solar sector in leapfrogging the electrical grid by providing reliable and affordable off grid energy and financing for rural Africa.”
According to Udayan Goyal, Co-Founder and Managing Partner at Apis, the investment will leverage the firm’s financial services expertise to fund innovation across growth markets. “We see a tremendous opportunity to leverage Greenlight Planet’s distribution partners, technology, Sun King brand and platform to offer broader appliance financing to underserved Africa populations. Greenlight Planet’s PAYG system offers a financing product embedded within the sale of a much-demanded physical product, and we think this context-based approach to financial services will drive widespread financial inclusion in growth markets.”
Led by Apis Growth Fund I, Greenlight Planet raised $60 million, including equity and debt. Existing shareholders Eight Roads Ventures and Bamboo Capital Partners participated. Debt investments included new disbursements from the company’s earliest institutional lenders, Deutsche Bank and Global Partnerships, as well as from SunFunder, PG Impact Investments, responsAbility and SIMA Funds. Freshfields acted as the legal advisor to Apis Partners.
Greenlight Planet operates out of 11 offices in 8 countries, across Africa and in India, including 800 employees, and more than 2,400 direct-sales agents. Greenlight Planet provides clean energy to 28 million people in 5.5 million households, who benefit from kerosene-free lighting and prevent emission of 400,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases annually.