28 explain what you’re doing, and you repair
problems, and you [generally] make yourself
available to them, they will be patient with
you,” Coll says.
“People were angry with us [though]
because it was the first time they were getting electricity, and then [the systems we
installed] wouldn’t work,” Wiechers adds.
“But after the first month, they saw that
we were always there, and that we cared
enough to always come back and fix things.
They really valued that.” It was an important early lesson that ultimately informed
the young company’s distribution and
HUB AND SPOKE
For three years thereafter, Iluméxico operated
out of a single facility in Mexico City, far from
its customers. Most of the villages the company targets are small, isolated indigenous
communities in Veracruz, Oaxaca, Guerrero,
Chiapas, San Luis Potosí, and Campeche.
Staff would spend days travelling, often
by foot or donkey, to reach them, and then
go door-to-door to speak with existing and
potential customers. Factoring in travel time,
(by paper), and report production, it was not
unusual for one sale to take up to a month to
complete. The team realized the process was
Their solution was to set up regional
branches—called Ilucentros—that are strategically located near their rural customers
and employ local distributors and technicians to deliver and service their products.
“These representatives work through the
Ilucentros to handle all of the customer
engagement, from education workshops
to payment collection,” Wiechers explains.
Among the regional offices’ responsibilities is handling microfinance lending
for customers who wish to purchase an
Iluméxico system but cannot afford to pay
the full cost upfront. Most of the loans
provided from the offices are structured
so families can make payments based on
what they would have spent each month
on traditional lighting sources, like candles.
Typically, payments amount to $10 to $18
per month, and on such a plan, customers
can pay off the basic system in about a year.
Such short duration financing plans ensure
that families do not remain in debt for very
long, and that the payments are in line with
what they can afford, Coll explains, adding
that once families have paid off the basic
system, Ilucentro representatives encour-
age them to continue investing in household
energy products, particularly those that can
be used for income-generating activities.
The Ilucentros also handle electronic collec-
tion of customer data, which has not only cut
down required manpower but has also enabled
the company to readily analyze data for trends
and impact, such as customer needs, payment
information and product performance.
Overall, the Ilucentro model is working,
Wiechers says. “We set baseline targets for
[the branches] to hit each quarter, and that
is going pretty well. Most of them are close
to breaking even,” he explains. Nevertheless,
Iluméxico runs a difficult business, and the
team is realistic about their prospects for turn-
ing profits from their products and services.
“It’s complicated to make this business
work, and we are still working on it,” Wiechers
admits. "Our growth margins have to be really
high, because our operating costs—especially
for distribution—are really high. Also, we run
CASE STUDY | LET THERE BE LUZ
People reached in
of displaced CO2
141 k W
Installed PV capacity
43 rural schools and
21 health centers
Iluméxico's impact statistics and targets