D.light Design, a company started in Silicon Valley and now resident in New Delhi, India, has a mission to replace toxic kerosene lighting for developing world villagers with solar-powered LEDs (light emitting diodes). Luckily for everyone involved, a brace of venture investors have decided the charitable mission won’t interfere with profit targets, awarding the company with $6 million in venture funding.
We’ve written about D.light several times, since a pair of Stanford MBAs came up with the idea. While neither solar panels nor LED lights are typically cheap, the two hooked up a low-cost set that can be sold for under $30 (and that’s for the high-end version) to people who often have to rely on non-electrical lighting.
Of course, what’s a measly few bucks to us might be a month’s earnings for a rural Indian. D.light, while motivated by noble goals to keep its prices low, actually can’t set them much higher: The consumers simply wouldn’t be able to buy the products. So the company, bound by low margins, will have to sell millions of the units to turn even a modest profit. Luckily, there are more than a few million people in the developing world who need light.
At the moment, D.light has three models, which it is gearing up to sell in parts of India and Africa. Over time, it will add different models and more markets, with the aim of selling tens of millions per year within a few years.
The $6 million funding was led by Nexus India Capital. Also participating were Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Garage Technology Ventures, Mahindra & Mahindra, Acumen Fund and Gray Matters Capital.