Shidhulai Affordable Technologies

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Using Solar Powered Boats to Bring Energy and Education Back to the Underserved



Headquarters: Dhaka, Bangladesh
Established: 1998
Impact Areas: Bangladesh
Type: Nonprofit
Energy Sectors:
Business Model Types:
Staff Size: 200
Annual Budget: US$2m
Major Funders: UK DfID, Danish Government, Kindermission, Clementrom Global Fund for Children, Gates Foundation
Awards: 2002: Ashoka Citizen based Initiative Award
2004: Global Junior Challenge Award of Municipality of Rome, CSTS Tech Award, Second Prize Stockholm Challenge Award
2005: Gates Foundation Access to Learning Award, World Bank Development Marketplace
2006: UNDP Equator Prize, Social Entrepreneur of the Global Philanthropy Forum, Santa Clara Global Social Benefit Incubator
2007: UNEP Sasakawa Prize, Ashden Awards for Sustainable Energy, Heroes of Great Bengal


Shidhulai brings free educational resources and low-cost rechargeable lanterns to rural off-grid communities using solar powered boats.


Energy Products/Services

Target Market

  • Poor landless communities in rural Northwest Bangladesh



Revenue Streams

  • Sale of lanterns and recharges
  • Grants and donations

Value Proposition

  • Shidhulai has 6 different types of boats delivering free schooling, libraries, health care, training, and internet access to communities too isolated to access them otherwise.
  • Shidhulai’s rechargeable lanterns provide a cheaper, cleaner, more waterproof replacement for customers’ existing kerosene lamps.

Problem Addressed

  • Only 30% of people in rural Bangladesh have access to grid electricity, and the government does not have the resources to change this in the near future
  • Most of the population Shidhulai targets live on $1/day and are too poor to be served by the market, even with microcredit, and too isolated to be served by the government.
  • In addition, in the rainy season, rural schools are routinely cut off from access and closed for weeks at a time.

Where They Are Now

Impact to Date

  • 20 school boats reaching 1,600 students in NW Bangladesh
  • 54 boats in total, including 10 library boats, 7 training boats, 5 health care boats, 2 solar service boats, 10 transport boats
  • 800 lanterns sold 2010, 200 given away to good students.


  • 1998: Shidhulai started with $500 and one computer
  • 2002: Floating school introduced
  • 2005: LED lamps introduced
  • 2007: Surya Hurricane lamp developed
  • 2010: Next Generation lamp

Growth Plan

  • Shidhulai is planning to scale up and buy old kerosene lanterns to retrofit in bulk from waste collectors, and then start producing in a factory.  They are hoping to target slightly higher end markets which could buy lanterns at an unsubsidized rate.
  • Shidhulai is also working on new projects such as a farming boat with different tiers (fishing, floating garder, chicken coop also used to fertilize the garden) and a disaster warning system measuring floodwater levels.

How They Deliver

Product Sourcing

  • Shidhulai developed its own lanterns and boats based on its assessment of its target market.  Lanterns are retrofitted kerosene lamps so that users can bring their own lamps in to be converted.
  • All products are built in Dhaka, but parts are sourced from China.


  • Shidhulai delivers both its educational resources and its lanterns via riverboats equipped with solar panels.
  • There are a number of different types of boats, but the most numerous are school boats and library boats.  School boats have 1 laptop and are powered by 6-1200W solar panels.  Library boats have 2-4 laptops or PCs and 1200-3000W panels.  Each serves 1200-1500 people, and student make appointments to use the computers in groups of 4-5.
  • Computers are connected to the internet through the USB mobile phone network modems.
  • Lanterns are sold by boat operators and charged by the boats’ solar panels.

Revenue & Affordability

  • All educational resources are provided free of charge.
  • Lanterns are either given away to good students as a scholarship or sold through Shidhulai’s business model.
  • Shidhulai sells its original Surya Hurricane rechargeable 6v lanterns for US$3 if a customer brings their own kerosene lamp to be retrofitted, or US$4 if they need the lamp housing as well.  Customers then pay US$.07 to recharge their lamps twice a week.
  • The next generation lamps, which come with a 10W solar panel and can therefore charge themselves, cost US$32, with US$14 paid up front, and $3 paid per month for the next 6 months.
  • Both lamps are sold at subsidized prices based on Shidhulai’s estimate of affordability.
  • Government statistics estimate that the average person in rural Bangadesh spends US$7.50/month on kerosene, but Shidhulai believes that its target market spends much less, approximately $1/month, and prices accordingly


  • Shidhulai is financed with grants and donations, and believes that income levels in the areas where it works are too low to deliver its services without subsidizations.
  • The past couple of years have been challenging due to the poor state of the global economy.
  • It is considering expanding into higher end markets with its lantern to increase revenues.

Surya Hurricane

Description:The Surya Hurricane is designed to make adopting a solar light as inexpensive and undisruptive as possible.  Users can bring in an existing kerosene lamp and have it retrofitted with a CFL bulb and battery.  Then they come to a central station twice a week to recharge it.  Shidhulai is a nonprofit and the lamp is subsidized to fit user ability to pay.  However it only costs $5 to make so the cost is covered over time through recharges.How It’s Used:
The Surya Hurricane is a brighter, less expensive version of a kerosene lamp and is often used by men for fishing, agriculture, and small business, and by women for income-generating craftwork. It is also used to ensure safe nighttime travel through flooded lands, of which Shidhulai’s target market has many.

Product Type:

Technical Data

Lumens/Watt:  50
Average Lamp Power and type:  5W CFL
Battery Capacity and type:  Two 4000mAh 6 V sealed lead-acid batteries
Hours Runtime/Charge:  8
Charging Hours from Flat:  N/A
Lumens:  250
Lumen-hours/year@4hr/day:  365,000
Service Delivered ($):  46,320
Kerosene Service Delivered ($):  872

Cost Data

Number of Households Served  1
Upfront Cost
Estimated Retail Price: $3 (subsidized)
Recurring Costs
Recharge Cost: $.07
Recharge Frequency:  .5 weeks
5-year Replacement and charging Costs $36.40
5-year Ownership Cost $39.40



Other Products

  • Next Generation 10W solar light
  • Solar powered school boats

More Resources

Online Resources

Contact Information

Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha
GPO Box No. 876
Dhaka 100000

( +880 2 8051124