Hot water is not only a privilege for rich people

In poor communities, access to hot water is a privilege which is very expensive. During three years, three South-Africans tested a new kind of solar heater, with the objective to find a product which will cost less than 20 USD. Today, the ‘Tshisa Box’ is a reality! Moreover, it is a job creation tool for people who want to sell it in their communities. Peter Mayson, one of the co-founders of this promising initiative, gives us the keys to understand its product.

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Interview conducted in February 2014.

 

Why did you decide to create the Tshisa Box?

“A group of us got together to make solar panels for one of the partners’ house, and from that we decided that everybody should have a solar geyser. Nobody could afford it… so we created a cheap one!

What inspired you to create this?

“Poor people don’t have any access to hot water and to the green economy, and we wanted that they can access to this technology. The Tshisa Box

So, you think that ecology is not only for rich people?

“Exactly. We realized also that poor people can’t make money out of the green economy. Our model says that we make the product and we send it out as cheap as possible, so they can make as much money as they can in outline areas.

It is a job creation tool?

“Yes, and it is not creating jobs in Cape Town, but in the middle of Mpumalanga, in the middle of the Northern Cape or the Eastern Cape, where every people need hot water. We can post our product for a very low price, and they can create their own business there.

What is exactly the Tshisa Box?

‘Tshisa’ means ‘hot’ in Xhosa, and a Tshisa Box is a box which looks like a quite sexy little briefcase. It is a black box with a clear lid and a plastic bag that you fill with water, the sun shines into the box, and heats the water. Depending where you are, how much water you get and how quickly the water heats up will be different. For example, in summer in Cape Town, you can have 10 liters of hot water at least two times a day.

It is for how many people?

“It is 10 liters, which is a bucket of water. Based on winter temperatures, we check that it will heat a bucket of water at the same temperature as three kettles of water. People who don’t have a solar geyser heat water using wood, paraffin, electricity, coal, depending where they are. It will reduce the dependence on electricity or even the cutting down of forests.

You tested the Tshisa Box during three years, and now you have a product that can fit a need of poor communities. What are the main results that you have?

“At the moment it has been tested all over South Africa, in Kenya, in Mozambique, in Tanzania and in Kenya. We are getting really good results. People cannot believe that this tiny little box will give you so much hot water… you are scared to touch it because it is so hot!

The next step is to find a way to distribute it?

“Our challenge at the moment is finding the right market, because we do not want to sell it through supermarkets or anything like that. We want to use it to build communities. We try to identify individuals who will set up their own business and their own distribution channels… and moving forward for that. A number of people have said ‘it is impossible, you cannot do it’. We do not believe that. We believe that if there is a need for people to make a living, then they will use the box in a natural way in this goal.

Do you really believe in the quality of your product?

“I have been testing one for a year and I wash every night my dishes with the water from this box, it works!

Today, a lot of young South-Africans want to embark on an entrepreneurial adventure to help society, do you have one advice for them?

“Just do it! Don’t believe people when they say that it is not going to work. Don’t just believe that it will work, but experiment. We have been experimenting for three years to make sure that we have a product that we are happy to sell. We have thrown out many products on the way, and we made many enhancements too. You have to be 100% sure that the product is good before selling it. Don’t do a business only to make money, if you are not ready to give a service, you won’t have any business.

A last word?

“We can only do it together. We have a wonderful product and there is a need out there, but we can’t provide the need on our own. We need to work together with other people, that is only by working together to solve this kind of problems that we can actually make it work.

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The three co-founders of Tshisa Box: Neil, Peter and Charles. 

 

Source: SA-The Good News