A battery production business in a sub-Saharan African country was saved from closure, thanks to the intervention of a well-established NGO (Non-Governmental Organization). The battery company was owned by a multinational, which was keen to offload it. The batteries were for agricultural and industrial use but, with economic decline in the country, the company was not doing well.
Its CEO had the funds to propose a buy-out to the multinational. His problem was that the funds were in the local currency, but the multinational would only accept payment in a hard currency—US dollars. It was an impasse.
At this point, he met the NGO Director by chance at a social gathering. He told her his story and invited her to the battery factory. What she found was a run-down plant, a demoralized workforce, a disenchanted and anxious local community, and an out-of-date product.
They discussed the possibility of a new product range that would serve the rural poor. They visited other villages where the NGO had worked successfully. They came up with the idea of developing a new line in solar-powered single cell batteries which would, for example, power light bulbs. The NGO could guarantee a large market, so long as the batteries were reasonably priced.