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Gujarat Energy Development Agency: The Case of Solar Cookers

Ravi C Moorthy
Br K S Rao, Director, Gujarat Energy Development Agency (GEDA), was contemplating whether the existing strategy for marketing solar cookers was good enough. Before him, on the table, lay a sheet of paper detailing the sales break-up (category-wise) of solar cookers for the year 1987-88 and a graph that charted out the aggregate sales performance of the product since its launch in 1980-81 (Please see Exhibits 1 and 2). The years 1981 -82 and 1982-83 were heady years for the product. Sales had crossed the three thousand mark and it had been difficult to keep up with the demand. However, the going had not been very good over the next few years as sales took a plunge. The current year's category-wise sales break-up indicated that sales performance had been the highest ever this year. However, Rao was of the opinion that there was a need to relook at the strategy right from the beginning and then decide upon the course of action. He, therefore, called for a meeting of the Solar Cooker Marketing Group.

In an era when conservation of non-renewable energy has become a vital issue, the challenges and prospects of marketing an innovative product like a solar cooker that has a direct bearing on saving of precious energy assumes considerable importance. The case presented in this issue focuses on the decisions regarding marketing of solar cookers. Readers are invited to comment on the marketing strategy of GEDA and also suggest a future course of action.
The case writer, Ravi C Moorthy, is an FPM participant in the Marketing Area of the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad.

The national apex body for the marketing of solar cookers, the Department of Non-conventional Energy Sources (ONES), began its operations in 1981-82. At that time, there was a shortage of all conventional cooking fuels, namely, fuelwood, kerosene as well as Liquid Petroleum Gas. The energy expended on cooking was causing grave concern because it constituted the largest share of total energy consumption in India. Therefore, in 1981, ONES introduced a solar cooker as an alternative to other cooking fuels. It was thought that about 25,000 cookers would be sold in the first year. As an incentive to the buyers, a subsidy of one-third of the cost was introduced, subject to a maximum of Rs 150. Since the cost per cooker worked out to Rs 450, the consumer was getting the cooker at Rs 300. The average expected payback period for this amount was two years assuming that the cooker was used conscientiously on all days when sunshine was available (about 300 days per annum).

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When the cooker was initially launched by DNES, the only state which was geared to manufacture and market it was Gujarat. In fact, the GEDA had begun its operations in 1979-80 and had taken the lead in solar cooker marketing as they had launched the product in 1980-81. At DNES, the planning process took three to four years. In 1984-85, the cumulative national sales of solar cookers had just crossed the 25,000 mark (Exhibit 3). Out of these, GEDA alone had sold more than 8,000 cookers.

From the macro perspective, it was estimated that the household sector in India was the largest consumer of energy, accounting for about 50 per cent of the total energy consumption. The fuels used in this sector were mainly non-commercial. Of the available replenishable energy source alternatives, the most promising ones seemed to be wind energy and solar energy. Solar energy was especially significant due to the high amount of insolation we receive throughout the year all over India. Hence, the need for a product such as the solar cooker on a macro level. From the micro (individual)-perspective, the solar cooker was considered useful in terms of health, nutrition, safety and economy. Solar cooking did not involve inhalation of unhealthy fumes. Further, besides being safer and more economical, the food that was cooked in solar cookers retained more of its nutrient value than the food cooked using alternate modes. Thus, the broad objectives of the solar cooker programme were: to promote the use of non-depletable fuel vis-a-vis depletable fuel to substitute conventional, commercial/non-com mercial sources of energy with non-conventional sources (solar) especially in the household sector to provide the consumer with a cleaner, safer, more nutritious and more economical mode of cooking compared to existing modes.

The Gujarat Energy Development Agency

The formation of GEDA in 1979 was the first concrete step taken by the Government of Gujarat to promote research and development in the field of energy, especially renewable sources of energy, and popularize the same all over the state through demonstrations. One of the major objectives of GEDA was to formulate and implement demonstration projects aimed at producing total energy requirements of remote villages and/or other selective utilization centres by harnessing solar, biogas, wind and other renewable sources of energy with the objective of evolving long-term plans. In this context, a quick look at the income and expenditure statements of GEDA will indicate that out of the total expenditure of nearly Rs 600 lakh on various projects, about Rs 162 lakh were spent on solar energy projects; oyt of this amount only about Rs 9.5 lakh were spent on the solar cooker project. It can be inferred from the income and expenditure statements that the amount spent on the solar cooker popularization programme as a whole was quite small compared to other projects. In fact, over the years, both sources and expenditures for projects other than solar cookers have increased substantially. Would this mean that GEDA was concentrating less on the solar cooker programme? Rao was convinced that this was not so. He felt that the project was sensitive and important and unlike many of the other projects handled by GEDA, this was targeted at the individual and not at the community. According to him, "more importantly, the payback in terms of energy savings is better than in most other projects."

Product Design and Development The process of design and development could be divided into two main activities: Improvement in the existing model through con sumer feedback and sponsored studies. Organizing solar cooker-design and prototype development contest.

Objectives of the Solar Cooker Programme

A product such as the solar cooker is of considerable importance from two perspectives: 40 Macro, i.e. the national perspective. Micro, i.e. the individual perspective.

Improvement in the Existing Model. Improvements in the cooker over the years had mainly been in terms of aesthetic improvements. Since the cooker had to be carried outside for cooking, it was found necessary to make the cooker lighter. This was achieved by replacing mild steel with aluminum which reduced the weight to 12 kilograms. Further developments had been in terms of providing wheels to facilitate movement of the cooker and a stand so that the cooker could be placed at a convenient height for the person who is cooking. But these additions were optional and were not adopted on a large scale.

Design Contest. The objective of the contest, held in 1985, was to encourage individuals to produce better designs and prototypes as compared to GEDA's solar cooker. The ordinary solar cooker had a capacity of 800 grams. This was usually sufficient for a family of four or five. The ONES introduced a four kilogram capacity solar cooker which was meant for larger applications.* Sales Performance of Solar Cookers In comparison with the conventional cookers used by the people inside their kitchen, the solar cooker was an entirely new cooking device which used only solar energy. It was to be installed outside the kitchen in an open courtyard or a terrace where sunrays directly fall on the cooker. To induce people to purchase the product, it was launched with a subsidy. Thus, the final price borne by the customer depended on the subsidy given by the Central and State Governments. Table 1 details the number of solar cookers sold yearly and cumulatively over the period 1980-88 along with the prices paid by the consumers. Table 1: Number of Solar Cookers Sold Yearly and Cumulatively and the Price

The cumulative sales of solar cookers in the various districts of Gujarat are given in Exhibit 5. Vadodara and Ahmedabad are the top two districts in terms of sales. In general, the sales were skewed towards the summer months when solar insolation was maximum. In 1984-85, the community solar cooker was introduced. Table 2 outlines the sales pattern: Table 2: Number of Community Cookers Sold between 1984-1988

Agency Records The main buyers of community solar cookers were schools (primary, military and charitable trust). Though its price was Rs 2,500, it was sold at a subsidy of 90 per cent to educational institutions. Earlier this subsidy was 100 per cent. For institutions other than educational ones, the subsidy was 50 per cent. GEDA attempted to introduce the community solar cooker for the mid-day meals scheme. Despite the fact that it cooked well, it was not accepted by the cooks of the scheme. The reasons were as follows: "The cook appointed by the government gets Rs 500 per month for the mid-day meals scheme. The government provides such that the cook can get ration (rice, dal, vegetable, etc.) from the ration shop at the rate of Re 0.90 paise per child. A further Re 0.10 paise per child is given as fuel expenses (firewood, kerosene, etc.). But the cooks, instead of purchasing the fuel, were asking the children to collect firewood, thereby saving Re 0.10 paise per child." Since GEDA wanted to save Re 0.10 paise per child by substituting conventional cooking by solar cooking, the scheme did not do well. The cooks did not want to lose out on their extra earnings. Extent of Energy Saving The extent of energy saved as a result of solar cooker usage had been more difficult to determine than product performance in terms of sales. This was due to the fact that a variable such as the extent of usage by each consumer (defined in terms of, say, number of meals cooked per annum, extent to which conventional fuel has been substituted by non-conventional fuels,

Sales were high in the first three years, but plummeted during the next three years. Subsequently, the sales picked Up. In examining the sales figures it is useful to keep two facts in mind. First, the annual sales potential for solar cookers in Gujarat had been estimated at 10,000. The potential estimate given by the agency hired for this purpose was based on a price of Rs 135 per cooker. Second, from 1986-87 onwards, a discriminatory pricing system had been introduced by the government under which certain defined categories qualified for higher rates of subsidy (see Exhibit 4 for. annual sales break-up, category-wise).
* Also, the aperture of the ordinary cooker was 0.16 sq. metres whereas that of community cooker was 1 sq. metre.

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etc.) needs not only sales data but more importantly, periodic data on usage. When the solar cooker programme had been launched, an intuitive estimate had been made of the likely savings that would accrue due to each cooker. But this had not been followed up with any data at the national level. The 1980-81 GEDA annual report estimated the anticipated energy saving over the next ten years for different kinds of energy sources (Table 3). In a recent study, it had been estimated that for a family of four or five, on an average, the usage of kerosene per household per month was 7 to 9 litres and that of firewood was 50 to 60 kilograms per month. In Gujarat, some market data were available as to the extent to which Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG), kerosene and firewood owners had substituted these conventional fuels by solar energy. It had been estimated that, on an average, when solar cooker was used along with LPG, as much as two LPG cylinders could be saved per annum, per family. Further, it was felt that roughly 40 per cent of the people using solar cookers were primarily LPG users, another 40 per cent were primarily using kerosene and the rest used primarily firewood. Significant data were obtained in this survey in order to estimate fuel savings. It was observed that very few owners reported wood and coal as their main cooking fuel. This may be an indication that a large number of cookers were distributed in urban and semi-urban areas as compared to rural areas. In another study, it was found that, on an average, 43 per cent of the respondents saved up to Rs 81 per year, 48 per cent saved Rs 117 per year and 9 per cent saved Rs 150 per year.

Disadvantages The problems stem from both internal (product) as well as external (environmental) sources some of which are as follows: Availability of Sunlight. The solar cooker can be used only on days when adequate sunlight is available and only at such times when solar insolation is sufficient (even in summer when clouds cover the sun, food may turn out to be half cooked). Thus, during the monsoon season, it is not possible to make use of the solar cooker. In fact, one research study had determined that the average usage of solar cooker was 5.2 months in the year. Also, there is a need for a convenient south facing terrace (which is the direction of the sun). Cooking Time. Since solar energy is distributed, the intensity with which thermal energy is delivered is not as high as in the case of conventional devices such as LPG stove or electric heaters. (See Exhibit 6). Thus, it takes much longer to cook. Also, cooking can be done only at specific times (depending on the sun). The above two constraints dictate the need for preplanned cooking and hence reduce flexibility. Limited Application. Due to the distributed and diluted nature of solar insolation, there is a need to concentrate energy if high temperatures are required. Since devices/mechanisms needed to concentrate solar energy have specific problems, the solar cooker can be used only for low temperature applications. Thus, it is not possible to use it for frying or for making "rotis." Unfamiliar Technology. The technology of solar cooker is not familiar in the sense that some kind of change in behaviour is required. The cooking in this case can not be done in the kitchen; it has to be done out in the open. This could lead to problems of product trial. Further, if there is a need to change cooking methods (e.g. adding less water than is conventional, not opening the double glass cover on the cooker when the cooking process is in progress), there might be a couple of disappointments in the beginning which would dissuade the consumer.

Problems and Prospects Associated with the Solar Cooker

The solar cooker is a product which has obvious advantages and disadvantages. As is often the case, this product is likely to be compared by consumers along various dimensions with existing modes of cooking.



Product Features. The product looks physically more like a prototype than an innovative product and lacks aesthetic appeal. Also, many people are put off by the aluminium containers, either because it does not look good or because it is not safe to cook in, or both.

"This can mean that in the long run the consumer might stand to lose due to low quality manufacturing facilities, as has been GEDA's intention" was how the manufacturer put it.
Inspection and Quality Control

The advantages of the solar cooker also stem from both internal and external sources some of which are as follows: Saves Energy. As already discussed, the solar cooker leads to energy saving both at the national and at the family level. Health. From the health point of view too, solar cooked food is advantageous in the sense that it is more nutritious. Because of the low temperature and slow cooking process, it preserves the inherent goodness in the food because of better retention of Thiamine, Riboflavin, Vitamin C, etc. In addition, the solar cooker is completely pollution free and clean. Convenience. It is often more convenient than kerosene or wood, because they are not always available. This could also be true of LPG except that a second cylinder has also been issued of late to some consumers. Besides, it requires minimum cooking supervision because it does not char, burn or overcook. Since all foods cooked in pressure cooker or baked in the oven could be prepared in the solar cooker, the above aspect gives a definite edge to solar cooker over the pressure cooker and the baking oven.

Despite the fact that the design of the product was simple and that it was not a high technology product, there were numerous consumer complaints as regards the quality of the existing product. Thus, quality had assumed considerable importance. The inspection procedure started with visual inspection. All the cookers (i.e. 100%) were visually inspected. Next, out of every 10 cookers, one cooker was tested for efficiency. Efficiency was decided upon based on the solar radiation on a particular day. The temperature which the cooker attained was also recorded. Based on the above two parameters, certain standards had been set for the required performance level. For e.g., for an insolation of 600 Watt/sq. mt, the temperature achieved at noon should be 140 degrees centigrade. This should take about one to one and a half hours. This procedure helped in the determination of insulation problems and leakages. The next stage consisted of dismantling one cooker out of every 50 cookers. Each and every specification was tested and if any one cooker was not up to the mark, then all the cookers were rejected.
Research and Development

GEDA had a list of ten manufacturers from whom it procured/ordered solar cookers whenever required. GEDA's policy had been to appoint a number of manufacturers so that a situation where the manufacturer has control did not occur. This had led to a state where it was difficult for any single manufacturer to attain breakeven sales, let alone make profits. Exhibit 7 gives a list of all manufacturers that had supplied solar cookers to GEDA since 1980-81 along with the year-wise and cumulative sales to GEDA. One manufacturer was of the opinion that absence of yearly targets (since GEDA would order at short notice) had encouraged the unorganized manufacturer to enter the fray, because his fixed costs were minimal and hence breakeven was low (see Exhibit 8 for detailed cost break-up estimates for the aluminium solar cooker). The number of workers varied from five in small set-ups to 20 in larger ones. In an organized set-aip, the average wage per worker was Rs 600 per month.
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One significant demerit of the solar cooker had been its performance under insufficient insolation. To overcome this limitation, a hybrid solar cooker design had been developed which made use of minimal supplementary electrical energy. Yet another dimension along which research was being done was in the direction of increasing cooking temperatures. The Gandhi Smarak Nidhi, financed by the DNES, had reportedly developed a concentric type of dish which attained a temperature of 350 degrees centigrade. This type would cost about Rs 2,500,. but mass production would reduce the cost. This device did not need much tracking and would be useful in cooking items like "roti." Advanced solar cookers incorporated features designed to overcome the problems of cooking in direct sunshine and of cooking only when the sun was shining. This research was being carried out on a global scale and any significant breakthrough was likely to create a revolution in solar energy use for domestic as well as other purposes.

However, it should be noted that research and development had been almost completely divorced from manufacturing. Competition The pricing policy had a direct implication on competition. For marketing of solar cookers, there was no real necessity to get the permission of DNES or GEDA. The need for getting their permission was dictated by the fact that the manufacturer was then entitled to subsidy. Thus, without getting permission from DNES or GEDA it would become difficult for a manufacturer to run a profitable concern. This acted as a barrier to entry. Competition existed at a more generic level also. An engineer who designs and manufactures solar cookers says, "The introduction of the policy of giving second LPG cylinder to consumers is likely to affect the sales of solar cookers." Similarly, the availability of electricity, firewood, cow dung, etc., was likely to have its effect on the sales of this product. Buyer Behaviour Rao felt that there were several psychological aspects to cooking worthy of notice. "On a general scale, people are secretive about their food, i.e., cooking is a private thing and confined to the inside of the house. In the case of the solar cooker, the food is completely covered but the cooking has to be done outside. Thus, there is a need for the consumer to change behaviour." "Also, cooking was not always a planned activity. A consumer might buy vegetables early in the morning and decide on the menu late in the morning. Such a routine would make the solar cooker difficult to use." "Another important aspect had to do with the recipe book. The housewife might read the recipe book but might not follow the instructions because she might not like to be given tips on cooking. This might lead to a couple of initial disappointments which would discourage the housewife." One important question was whether a person who could afford a solar cooker at Rs 375 was really bothered about the saving. Also, it was likely that these consumers thought of other devices first and then only the solar cooker. Market research on the social and psychological aspects had indicated the following: The decision to purchase the solar cooker was most often made by the husband or male head of the family.

Only in 28 per cent of the cases were neighbours influenced to purchase a solar cooker and the major reason stated for non-purchase was "unawareness of place of availability." This was true even of neighbours who found the cooker acceptable though awareness about the solar cooker was high among both neighbours of actual users and nonusers.

Target Market
The target market could be broadly defined as all people/households who use conventional energy sources of one form or the other for the purpose of cooking. This could be more specifically defined in terms of households who have the inclination to economize on their fuel bill and have access to direct insolation of the sun. As determined through market research, the typical owner of a solar cooker had a higher secondary level of education or more. Also, an overwhelming majority of the users were from the urban areas. Further, users, neighbours of actual users and non-users belonging to medium and large sized families and economically from lower and middle class income groups were found to have a more favourable attitude towards the solar cooker. Segmentation The existing marketing strategy did not have segmentation as a key dimension. Though there was an understanding at the conceptual level that different clusters of consumers may be requiring different benefits, there was no empirical study supporting this hypothesis. But market research indicated that a majority of the consumers bought the product because they wanted to save fuel. In fact "fuel saving" and "an urge to satisfy their innovativenes" were the most important factors influencing the decision to purchase. According to Rao, "There is a section of consumers for whom there is a fad about it being natural. Since the food gets cooked directly by the sun, the natural aspect of it appeals to many people." The only marketing tool that had been used as a segmentation variable was pricing. The government had defined categories to which differential prices were charged because differential subsidy was given (The details have been discussed under "Pricing"). Positioning Currently, no deliberate positioning strategy had been followed by GEDA for solar cookers. There was also no consumer research which gave an indication as to how the product was perceived by the consumer. There was


some indication that the consumer did not think of the solar cooker as a replacement but rather as a supplementary product. Market research also indicated that it was more often supplemented with LPG than with any other fuel. The product had been variously compared with saucepan cooking and pressure cooking on the dimensions of doneness, flavour, colour, nutrient retention, etc. This research had been done by asking consumers to rate the food on certain given dimensions. In this research, the fuel used (for saucepan and pressure cooking) was not a variable. Using scientific methods, various aspects of solar cooking were evaluated in this experiment. Specifically, the acceptability and vitamin retention of seven commonly used North Indian dishes cooked in a saucepan, pressure cooker and solar cooker were evaluated. Solar cooker was as good as the others for colour, flavour, texture, taste and overall acceptability of all the preparations. Pressure cooking secured the maximum score for doneness. The losses in Thiamine, Riboflavin and Vitamin C contents of foods during cooking were maximum in saucepan cooking followed by pressure cooking and minimum in solar cooking. Another form of comparison was with the fuel that was being used (LPG, firewood, cow dung, etc.). In this form of comparison, the dimensions were: Efficiency. Exhibit 6 brings about such a comparison between LPG and solar cooker along the dimension of efficiency. The factor that it would affect would be "the time required for cooking." Cleanliness and Safety. Solar cooking was cleaner than cow dung or firewood and safer than most fuels. Flavour and Nutrient Retention. Research has shown that solar cooking leads to better flavour and more nutrient retention than LPG cooking. Servicing and Maintenance Servicing and maintenance of solar cookers had been completely divorced from distribution and manufacturing. Thus, while distribution was done through dealers and voluntary agencies, servicing was done by the Sardar Patel Renewable Energy Research Institute (SPRERI) based on the list of consumers given by GEDA. The SPRERI conducted a survey to monitor solar cooker usage while performing the servicing function. These surveys were conducted in 1982,1985 and 1986. Pricing In 1986-87, the government first defined categories to which different prices would be charged. This meant
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that some categories would get greater subsidy than the existing subsidy (which existed right from launch). Thus, discriminatory pricing had been the only form of segmentation which had occurred. The various categories defined by the government and the extent of subsidy are given in Table 4. Table 4: Various Categories and the Extent of Subsidy
Category Type Percentage of Subsidy

Tribal areas Coastal areas Educational Integrated Rural Energy Programme (IREP) Integrated Rural Energy Centre (IREC) Normal subsidy

75%(Rsl75) 75%(Rsl75) 90% (Rs 75) 75% (Rs 175)

* Price paid by consumer is given 75% (Rs 175) 50% (Rs 375) in brackets.

The reasons behind charging different prices were as follows: Some categories were considered to be economically backward. Though this was not strictly defined, the government provided lists of tribal and coastal villages. The IREP came under the umbrella of the Integrated Rural Development Programme (IRDP). The IRECs were designated areas/villages where the government planned to generate all required energy using non-conventional sources, e.g. Khandia in Gujarat. Such villages would also serve as model villages in future. Educational institutions had been given a special 90 per cent subsidy because it was expected that these schools would make the children aware of such devices (utilizing non-conventional energy), so that their minds could be influenced at an early age thus creating a potential market in the next generation. Officials at GEDA were of the opinion that the pricing policy did have negative consequences. For instance, it was known through unofficial channels that some people in the "normal" category managed to obtain solar cookers in the higher subsidy categories through fraudulent practice. The normal subsidy of 50 per cent (Rs 375) consisted of a subsidy of Rs 150 from DNES (which all states had to give) and a state government subsidy of Rs 150. Further, GEDA gave a subsidy of Rs 75 per cooker. This was applicable for the aluminium body solar cookers which actually cost Rs 750 (Exhibit 8).


In a report submitted by a consultant to GEDA, it was speculated that rather than stimulating the demand for the product, the subsidy had given it a negative image. This could be one of the reasons for the sales not having taken-off. In the same report, it was stated, "Even the experience gathered at GEDA amply establishes that highly subsidized sales made to customers below the poverty line or identified poor families, even when distributed free of cost, does not enthuse them to use the product." Distribution Though GEDA officials realized early on that distribution was the vital link in getting the product accepted by the consumer, till 1984-85 they were virtually distributing the product themselves. Subsequently, they had built up the network from 4 dealers in 1984-85 to 65 in 1987-88. At present, whereas for regular sales i.e. at Rs 375, the dealers and sub dealers are responsible for the Tribal, Coastal, IREP and IREC designated areas, the distribution is done by voluntary agencies. The criteria for appointing dealers do not apply to voluntary agencies. The clusters of dealers over five broad geographical regions in Gujarat are given in Table 5. Table 5: Number of Dealers Geographical Regions of Gujarat in Five

He should be ready to spend some money on ad vertising. He should be prepared to deposit Rs 1,000 with GEDA. He should be a motivated person and willing to contribute to the national cause on energy conser vation. He should provide GEDA with a comprehensive plan as to how he is going to organize the sales.

Though sincere efforts were made to select dealers keeping all these criteria in mind, it had not always been possible to get good dealers as they were normally not willing to spare space for the product. Also, the dealers protested against the terms of contract which GEDA had with them wherein it retained the right to sell in the geographical areas that the particular dealer controlled. For promoting the product by inserting handbills in the newspaper, the dealer was paid Rs 15 per thousand. If the dealer organized an exhibition (on a large scale), he was paid 50 per cent of the cost incurred. Further, for an advertisement released by the dealer, 60 per cent of the cost was paid by GEDA. The commission policy had varied over the years and had become more sophisticated. Up to 1985-86, the commission per cooker was Rs 50. As a percentage of the sales price, this came to about 12 per cent. In 1986-87, the slab rate was introduced which was subsequently revised. The revised slabs and commission rates arc given in Table 6. Table 6: Commission Amount to Dealers

The criteria that GEDA had laid down for appointing dealers were as follows: The dealer should be in the business of household goods like furniture, kitchen appliances, cooperative society, trusts and supermarkets. The showroom should be located in the heart of the market and should have enough display room. The dealer should be in a position to stock at least 10 solar cookers at his own cost. He should have a godown or some suitable place to stock them. He should be in a position to organize demonstra tions and carry out servicing. He should have experience in introducing new products and handling rural people.

Source: Agency records.

From the 1st of April, 1987 to the 29th of February, 1988, a total of 2,177 cookers were sold by dealers. Eight dealers sold more than 50 cookers till February 1988. At the end of the year, three dealers had achieved sales of 251 and above and one dealer between 126 and 250. There were 22 * dealers who had achieved no sales at all. The report on dealer performance analysis said, "These eight dealers put together sold 1,357, i.e. more * This figure represents solar cookers sold under 'normal' category.


than 50% of the total sales and the 56 dealers together sold 820 cookers out of which sales through GEDA was to the extent of 256 cookers." Exhibit 9 gives annual dealer-wise sales break-up for the years 1986-87 and 1987-88. Though sales under categories other than "normal" (Rs 375) was usually handled by voluntary agencies, dealers were also permitted to make such a sale. If the dealer made a sale of the 90 per cent subsidy cooker, he was entitled to a commission of Rs 20 whereas for the other two types, the commission was Rs 50. If a voluntary agency identified a party for subsidized sale (75% or 90%) then the commission of Rs 50 was split equally between the dealer who supplied and the voluntary agency. Under categories other than 'normal,' the annual incentive and the bulk incentive schemes did not apply. One top official at GEDA summed up the situation as follows: "Gujarat has 184 talukas and if one aims at getting one good dealer in each, then things would be far better off. Though credibility of the government has helped in getting dealers, these dealers are not very motivated and are not capable of educating the consumer about the product. Thus their demonstrations are ineffective and the consumer fails to get convinced."

a lesser extent, hoardings and bus panels. Exhibitions and demonstrations were the key components of the promotional programme. Other tools such as point of purchase material, posters and cinema slides had been used off and on. Research indicates that whereas neighbours of actual users got to know of the solar cooker through their neighbours (i.e. actual users), non-users became aware of it through newspapers, exhibitions and demonstrations and friends. Message GEDA made available a recipe book which attempted to educate the consumers regarding the dishes that could be cooked in a solar cooker and how they should be cooked. Cooker owners were sent a Solar Cooker Patrika which was both a medium of education and of feedback. One official at GEDA speculated that the early communication strategy may not have been appropriate, that is, transfer of technology had not taken place along with transfer of ownership. This might have occurred because early on delivery boys were used for delivering solar cookers. First, ladies may not have preferred interacting with them and second, their (delivery boys) communication ability may not have been up to the mark. Market Research GEDA has been sponsoring ongoing research of the market in order to gather a variety of information on users and non-users. A study of the socio-psychological and economic factors affecting acceptability of solar cookers in Gujarat was sponsored by them in 1985; This was a one-shot research. Another source of information from the solar cooker users had been the Solar Cooker Patrika, which was mailed to all owners of solar cookers periodically with the questionnaire enclosed. The owners were required to fill the questionnaire, stick a stamp and post it back to GEDA. The Solar Cooker Patrika was used as a medium in 1987-88 to obtain feedback from purchasers of solar cookers. Approximately, 4,000 questionnaires were sent. The total number of responses received were 140. Out of this 59.3 per cent possessed mild steel (MS) cookers whereas 40.3 per cent possessed aluminium cookers. Besides obtaining usage data, the survey attempted to find out the type of food prepared by respondents using the solar cooker (Exhibit 11). In this survey, the satisfaction level of respondents with regard to the solar cooker was found to be 90.7 per

Advertising and Sales Promotion

The launch of the solar cooker was accompanied by publicity rather than either advertising or sales promotion. In fact, till 1985, there was hardly any advertising . (also dealers were first appointed this year). Thus, in 1984-85, a few thousands were spent on promotion and a few demonstrations were held. Subsequently, the amount spent had been higher but there had been no concerted effort to follow a plan. Exhibit 10 gives the approximate advertising and sales promotional spending for the years 1985 to 1988. According to Rao, "The real problem is not how much to spend on advertising but whether to spend on advertising. If too many people are attracted by advertising and are dissatisfied with the product, then it might kill the product prematurely. On the other hand, people are also not aware of the positive aspects of the product. For instance, solar cooking involves a reduced usage of ghee, oil, etc. This is both more economical and more healthy." Media For the solar cooker popularization programme, GEDA had made use of several media. Besides advertising in newspapers and magazines (to a limited extent), they had made extensive use of promotional leaflets and to
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cent whereas the dissatisfaction level was found to be 9.3 per cent.

Organizational Structure (Marketing) at GEDA

At GEDA, the marketing department was, almost wholly, concerned with the marketing of solar cookers. This was because it was the only product among many other products the agency handled that required marketing. The executives directly involved were as follows:

At present, GEDA was following a strategy of mass marketing. There were speculations whether a strategy of concentration would be better. If it were so, then who should GEDA be concentrating on? A related question was whether there was a need to brand the product. Would this help in the identification of the product and ease the job of advertising? "Should we be pumping more funds into Research and Development or should we concentrate more on implementing the existing strategy?" This, according to Rao, was a question which kept popping up. Rao felt that the question of pricing was crucial. The subsidy, which was introduced at launch, was only meant to give a boost to the product. But as things were, it had become a part of the pricing policy. On the one hand, it was felt that the lesser the price the consumer paid for the product, the lesser his commitment and motivation to make use of it. Also, "subsidy" carried with it a negative connotation as regards the ability of the product to perform. On the other hand, it was felt that the lesser the price, the greater the demand for product.

The Director was in charge of overall supervision of all the divisions. The Deputy Director (Admn.), in addition to his other tasks, attended to overall coordination with manufacturers, dealers, consultants, liaison with government agencies and coordination of IREP work. The Marketing Officer was in charge of arranging supply to dealers and coordinating distribution function, processing subsidy assistance of each solar cooker sold and attending to correspondence with dealers and others. The Junior Programme Officer was in charge of quality control and inspection and attending to other activities relating to manufacturing. The Marketing Coordinator performed the functions of correspondence with customers, booking of orders and bill processing.

Rao was quite convinced that in the overall scheme of things, solar and wind energy utilization would play a key role. A long-term strategy had to be evolved, keeping in view the social and commercial objectives. "The task was not simple. There might even be a need to educate future generations about the need of the hour" was how Rao put it. Nevertheless, he felt that given the amount of fuel expended for domestic purposes (especially for cooking), the solar cooker programme needed an exhaustive and integrated marketing planning approach.

Future Strategy
Rao felt that essentially there were two routes to selling this product. The first route was to get into the government system. One could contact the collector, get access to each taluka and sell 50 to 100 cookers in each. The second method would be to let the consumer voluntarily buy the product, as was being followed now. Which strategy should GEDA follow?