Bright Light Innovations: The Starlight Stove

Bright Light Innovations is a real situation – the names, dates, and plans were correct at the time the case was written. The case is based on an award winning business plan created by a team of students (mostly undergraduates) and faculty advisers all of whose names are mentioned in the case. As of this writing, such a search only yields information about how the business plan fared in various competitions. The case allows a discussion of several important issues. At a broad level, the case deals with selling a relatively technical breakthrough that could have tremendous social value in a developing country. It shows how marketing principles can be used to help a less-fortunate population. But marketing a product in a developing country can be a real challenge. Channels of distribution are often limited. Consumer incomes are low – and the Starlight Stove might cost one third of the average per capita income. The selling price on the stove, which has not been set, might range from $80 – $100 or more. This is a considerable expense in a country where the gross per capita national income is only $400. The case mentions microfinancing and a 20% interest rate is typical. Broken down to $.68 per week, customers may better understand costs and benefits. The stove offers significant economic benefit by allowing owners to spend more time on education or income-generating activities. Let’s briefly walk through some of these elements and possible discussion points.

• External environment. one might discuss the impact of cultural values on aid for developing countries. Traditionally, most aid to impoverished nations was in the form of grants, government relief, and/or donations. But this approach has its pitfalls – as each form dries up and tends not to motivate the recipients. More recently, many donor countries and philanthropists emphasize aid that gives people a “hand up” instead of a “hand out.” Bright Light Innovations reflects this approach.

• Competition. The case provides some information about competing technologies – though none are identical. The lack of a similar technology can make the job of selling the Starlight Stove both easier and harder. While the product offers significant advantages to its target market, these consumers do not have a direct basis of comparison and may not understand how they will benefit