Nuru Energy

Nuru Energy has developed a rechargeable light and pedal charger. Microentrepreneur shopkeepers buy a charger and set of lights which are sold to shop customers, who then pay to have the lights recharged with the generator.

Value proposition

  • Nuru’s model takes advantage of the benefits of a pedal charged product vs. a solar one (much less charging time per hour of light, much cheaper) but also overcomes the challenge that customers don’t like to pedal.
  • Because they are paid to pedal, the entrepreneurs see it as an income-generating activity, which reduces the stigma.
  • It also comes to resemble other common shopkeeper tasks, like milling.


Revenue streams


  • Sale of Products through microentrepreneurs
  • Recharge Fees
  • Carbon Credits – eventually


Product sourcing and design


  • Nuru Energy’s founder, a former Silicon Valley electrical engineer, got interested in hand-crank rechargers while working with Freeplay Energy, which sells consumer-cranked lights and radios.
  • It then occurred to him that a model where the cranking was done by an entrepreneur rather than an end-user might be successful, as it creates less work for the end-users.
  • The team spent 14 months researching customer needs and designed the Nuru Light as a small, affordable task light which can be used in many ways, and can be attached to other Nuru Lights to create brighter systems.
  • The pedal charger is designed to be used like a bicycle, reducing the stress on the pedaller compared with a hand-crank and creating enough power to fully recharge 5 Nuru Lights simultaneously in 20 minutes.
  • Nuru’s lights are manufactured in China and India.
  • Nuru’s original pedal generator was much cheaper ($50-$70) with no bells and whistles. It required directions to operate, and the entrepreneurs were not reading them, and were breaking their chargers. This led Nuru to develop a more expensive device ($175) which is much simpler to use.


Revenue and affordability


  • Entrepreneurs usually get financing from Nuru or a Nuru partner MFI to cover the up-front cost of the lights.
  • One powerful element of the model is that because the light needs to be recharged, the costs of the charger and overhead can be paid off over time, reducing the up-front cost for the customer vs. a solar light.
  • Entrepreneurs generally pedal <2 hours/day, and can recharge 5 lights at a time. They generally earn about $2/day on top of other income. Nuru Energy receives a franchise fee for each recharge.
  • Nuru has designed a generator model with a locking mechanism to ensure that the entrepreneurs don’t charge without paying Nuru the franchise fee via the mobile money network.