ENERGIA interviewed Neha Juneja, co-founder and CEO of Greenway Grameen, at the Ashden Awards 2014. She is an industrial engineer and has founded Greenway Grameen with two partners: a chemical engineer and a mechanical engineer. They started designing clean cookstoves in 2010, and launched their line of stoves in December 2011. To date, they have sold 140,000 stoves, benefitting 700,000 people and have a team of 30 employees working in three departments in India.
What does winning the Ashden Award and £20,000 mean to Greenway Grameen?
It is a big honour for us. It gives us a lot of confidence that the things we have been doing are seen as important. It gives us a lot of credibility towards our stakeholders, which is important in order to scale up. We will invest [the prize] in the company – in advertisements and marketing. Advertising is so expensive and we do not have the money to do what we would like to do. This is something that is very much needed, but we have not had the money for that. We also have a year’s support from Ashden to meet our various training needs.
Why did you decide to focus on creating clean cooking stoves?
Cooking is something you do every day, several times a day – and it is a task almost exclusively done by women. Smoke coming from indoor cooking on open fires or clay cookstoves is the number 1 health risk factor in South Asia. Two-thirds of India still cooks on clay stoves. Our stove produces 70% less smoke and uses 65% less fuel than traditional mud stoves. It makes cooking faster and more productive, allowing women more time for other things or to rest.
How sustainable is the stove, in both usage and price? The lifespan of the stove is about five years, and the cost is about £14. The poorest of the poor are not able to afford it but, overall, two-thirds of the population in India cook on clay stoves. A large proportion of them are able to purchase a stove but, at the moment, there is a lack of awareness about the product. There is no competition but, because there is no similar product on the market, we need to educate people about it.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced?
Finding someone to produce the stoves [at the very start], because we wanted less than 10,000 pieces to be produced. That is no longer a problem: currently we produce 20,000 per month. Our stoves are produced by a motorbike factory.
Right now, our biggest challenge is to reach out to customers, since we have no money to advertise on TV or radio. We are trying to solve this by partnering with microfinance institutions to get an audience and market because, in person, it takes ten minutes to explain to a potential buyer what the stove is, and why they should buy it, and then three minutes to make the sale. That is a lot of time per customer and makes it hard to scale up. When sales go up, other marketing possibilities will open up, such as TV or even mobile marketing.
Where do you want Greenway Grameen to be ten years from now?
I hope that cooking on clean stoves become standard in houses, that every kitchen has a built-in place for a clean cookstove. That our Greenway Smart Stove becomes the brand of choice in India, a respected brand.