In the developing world, cooking is a major health issue - and not for the reason you think.
Despite all the advances in technology, nearly 200 million people in India and China still make their daily meals over ineffient wood stoves or open fires. This method of cooking emits large amounts of smoke, gas and carbon, polluting the air and poisoning the people who use them.
The World Health Organization estimates that 2 million worldwide die every year from the smoke generated by cooking and heating. The resulting indoor air pollution causes respiratory issues, lung disease and pneumonia, and contributes to cancer, heart disease and global warming.
Yet, despite the extreme negative consequences of using ineffient wood-burning stoves, people in the developing world aren't buying smokeless stoves. In a recent interview with Ideas To Go, K. Sudhir, the Director of the Yale China Insights Program at Yale School of Management, describes the startling reason the new smokeless stoves languish on the shelves:
Women are the ones who use the stoves, and actually suffer from many of the health ailments. But the men have the economic power. So sometimes, even when the women want it, and even when it’s subsidized to a very low price—the efficient stoves aren’t being purchased.
All political issues about the power of women aside, isn't it fascinating how the smokeless stove companies completely missed who their real customer was?
Once the smokeless stove companies realized that they actually need to market their product to men, they completely changed their approach.
Researchers realized that men in those countries often live 2-3 miles from a place with electricity - making it extremely difficult to charge their cell phones. So, the smokeless stove companies make a small change to their stoves - they added a USB charger.