MIT Public Service Center

Identify 5 potential segments in the biomass stove market and develop a marketing strategy for each of them.

Servals Automation Pvd Ltd
Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India


Servals Automation Private Limited (Servals) is a social enterprise with a mission “To bring appropriate technology to the ‘bottom of pyramid’ to enhance the quality of their life”. Aiming to “usher in an age of energy independence to the poor”, Servals focuses on providing clean, green, affordable and sustainable energy for cooking and lighting purposes. Servals seeks to achieve its mission with a strong focus on the following environmental practices at the grass-roots level - Conservation of Fossil-Fuels, Reduction of Carbon Emission, Reduction of Indoor Air Pollution, Reduction of De-Forestation. Their products are designed with a view to (a) conserve fossil fuels (energy efficient kerosene burners and stoves) (b) use truly renewable energy sources (Stoves and Lamps that run on straight vegetable oil) (c) use of under-tapped sources of energy (TLUD gasifier wood stoves)

Servals seeks to work towards its mission with a business model that is based on social entrepreneurship. In the effort to harness the productive power of the rural poor, Servals partners with NGOs and SHGs for production and marketing. The company also hopes to create a stream of economic activity around its new energy inventions at the grassroot level (esp TLUD wood stoves and Plant oil stoves) so that the inventions are self sustaining, self reliant and provide energy independence to the rural poor.

Servals product Portfolio : The products of Servals represent a complete basket of products suited for every fuel use – Kerosene (Burners and Stoves), Biomass (TLUD Gasifier Wood Stove and Plant Oil/Straight Vegetable Oil (Plant Oil Stove and Lamp).

With a product range that has been identified by Infodev (a special program of the World Bank) as a “cleantech innovator success story”, being identified as a Technology Pioneer Candidate 2011 by the World Economic Forum and having won one of India’s most prestigious award in the Clean Energy Category and consequently being recognized as one of India’s top 10 most investment worthy organizations in the social enterprise space, Servals is gearing up to move up the sustainable and renewable energy chain through its newer energy inventions – particularly the TLUD gasifier wood stove and the plant oil stoves and lamps.

The Challenge

What challenge do you face in your organization? What are the community needs that the student will be addressing? Why do you need someone from outside your organization to help with this? What can the student gain while working with your organization? Do you have ideas about how the problem could be tackled? What resources does the community/organization have that might help?)

Servals has a TLUD biomass stove as part of its product portfolio. The details of the product, its social impact, the market it serves etc are provided in the annexure. Here is a quick overview: TLUD stands for Top Lit Up Draft. This is different from most of the ordinary cook stoves which are Bottom Lit Up Draft. There is a lot of interest in TLUD technology around the world since this saves more fuel material compared to a traditional 3 stone fire wood stove. Simply put, the TLUD gasifier wood stove is a stove with a canister, which when filled with fuel material, (any waste material like leaves, twigs, coconut husks etc), and combusted will enable cooking for an average of 30 minutes depending on the type of fuel & its density. At the end of combustion process it leaves behind charcoal.

This presents an energy efficient cooking solution to the very vast majority of the rural population. While it has the versatility to accept all kinds of dry biomass waste as cooking fuel and offer a host of advantages such as 39% thermal efficiency, reduction in indoor air pollution, almost 60% saving in biomass, etc, it differs from the commonly used three stone stoves which are bottom-lit, in that the TLUDs are not designed to accept continuous fuel feed. In the TLUDs, the cooking fuel has to be pre-loaded into the combustion chamber and cannot be interrupted during the combustion process. The cooking duration depends on the kind of fuel loaded. The Servals TLUD biomass stove comes with a set of 2 canisters or combustion chambers to overcome the issue of continuous fuel feed and enable longer cooking duration.

Another important aspect to appreciate about the TLUD biomass stove is that at the end of the cooking session the stove produces charcoal. Charcoal can be put to several uses. Improving soil fertility is one of the many. There is a global movement around how biochar can be used to improve soil fertility. Using the charcoal to fuel a charcoal based stove is another. There are perhaps other such uses. And the uses will vary from one community to another depending on the economic profile of that community.

The biomass stove market is huge and heterogeneous. It is also characterized by high levels of illiteracy. Given that the market is so huge, Servals hypothesizes that it would make more sense to not look at the biomass market as whole, but rather look for pockets or segments in the market where it will be easier to convert the existing biomass stove users to users of the improved TLUD stoves.

Given the TLUDs design characteristics, availability of fuel supply, will become an important segmentation criteria. A household should be able to have access to a steady stream of fuel and pre-load the canisters and keep it ready for continuous cooking.

Based on this segmentation criteria, Servals wants to identify 5 pockets or segments in the biomass stove market that will present a promising and potential market. Servals also hopes to design a marketing strategy for each of these market segments that could be unique to that segment based on the segment characteristics. The marketing strategy should include product bundling packages that are relevant to the market segment, the easiest way to reach them, a competitor scan of the alternatives and the best way to communicate the value proposition to them.

For eg: Tea Plantation or Low cost housing community could be examples of such market segments. What is the product and service value proposition that should be offered in these segments that will encourage them to convert to TLUD users?

Key deliverables expected:

Qualifications, Preferences, and Assets

This is a project that is essentially marketing oriented. It calls for a profile that will be able to appreciate the user demographics and user challenges and customize a value proposition for them around the TLUD biomass stove.

Phase of the project that can be done while at school:

Phase of the project that has to be done at site:

Time constraints

This is a general need that we would welcome help with at any time.



Mr. Mukandan
Managing Director
91-44-64577181 or 91-98403-56578 (mobile)

Mr. Sujatha Srinivasan
Director- Communication and Imports
91-044 - 64577181 / 182 Mobile: 91-96001-09777

PSC Support

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