The Journey Of Sun King: Providing Communities with Clean Energy

The Journey Of Sun King Empowering Communities with Clean Energy

Sun King is the world’s largest off-grid solar energy company, serving 1.8 billion people across Africa and Asia without reliable electricity. Through innovative product design, affordable pay-as-you-go financing, and a grassroots field team of 15,000 agents providing installation and service, Sun King has powered the lives of over 82 million people.

Sun King’s journey began at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, where its founders set out to create affordable, reliable, and clean energy solutions for off-grid communities.


Early Days: A Vision for Change


Sun King, initially known as Greenlight Planet, was founded in 2007 by three University of Illinois graduates: Patrick Walsh, Anish Thakkar, and Sam Goldman. Patrick, an engineering student, had worked on a biodiesel generator for a rural village in Eastern India. This experience inspired him to find a cleaner alternative to the kerosene lamps commonly used by off-grid communities. Realizing solar energy’s potential, he partnered with Anish Thakkar and Mayank Sekhsaria, engineering classmates, to develop affordable solar-powered lamps.

In 2008, they secured seed funding from angel investors, including Prabha Sinha, co-founder of ZS Associates. With this support, they set up operations in Mumbai, establishing a direct sales network to distribute their initial product, the Sun King solar lamp, to rural families. The company quickly expanded, using local agents, known as “Sun King Saathis,” to reach off-grid communities in India. Sun King’s early success in India paved the way for expansion into Sub-Saharan Africa, where they replicated their direct sales model in countries like Kenya and Uganda.


Growth and Expansion


As Sun King grew, it expanded its product line to include solar home systems designed to meet diverse customer needs. These systems allowed families to power lights, charge mobile phones, and run small appliances. The company’s customer-focused approach and commitment to affordability drove its rapid growth across Africa and Asia.

Today, Sun King operates the world’s largest direct-to-consumer, pay-as-you-go (PAYG) solar distribution network, growing by 150,000 new clients per month across seven countries. In Kenya, one in five people use Sun King, with 18 million Kenyans benefiting from its operations over a decade. The company’s user base in Nigeria tripled in just one year. Despite its rapid expansion, Sun King has remained consistently profitable.

According to GOGLA, the global association for the off-grid solar energy industry, Sun King now accounts for 38% of industry-wide PAYG solar revenue. This growth has eliminated 22 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions and saved consumers $4.4 billion in energy costs.


Sun King Funding Rounds


Sun King’s success attracted significant investor interest, leading to a series of funding rounds that fueled its expansion. Since its inception, Sun King has reportedly raised over $400 million across multiple rounds. A major milestone was its $260 million Series D round in April 2022, led by General Atlantic. This funding allowed Sun King to scale its operations, expand into new markets, and invest in product development. Earlier this year, Sun King secured a $7 million unsecured loan from Lendable, a leading provider of debt to fintech companies in emerging markets.


Partnerships and Collaborations


Sun King’s growth has been supported by strategic partnerships. Collaborations with companies like Verto and Citi have made solar energy more attainable by offering customers flexible payment plans. These alliances have strengthened Sun King’s position as a leading solar provider in emerging markets.


Future Plans


Looking ahead, Sun King plans to expand its presence in existing markets and explore new regions where solar energy can make a significant impact. The company also intends to introduce new products and technologies to further enhance the value of solar energy for its customers.

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