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[ venture] Why elderly do not buy scented candles? Focusing on problem, but not solution.

For the last few days, I have been talking about thinking simply, but also about thinking deeply. These may be the same when it comes to removing the noise and seeing the essence. Then, to think deeply is to focus on the problem that the product or solution solves, rather than on the visible solution or product.

Last year in Japan, when we did a crowdfunding campaign, we decided to make not only coffee and chocolate, but also candles and soap using our coffee and cocoa beans. At that time, we had a Japanese intern student who did market research on candles. I don't blame her because she worked the first time, and my Indonesian staff members had to rely on her about Japan market research. Anyway, this is an example of not capturing the essence of the project.

The result she came up with was: "The people who buy candles in Japan are the elderly, over 60 years old, so we will sell candles to them". But that's a very wrong market. She focused too much on the solution, the candle, and not on the problem it solves. People over 60 buy candles because there is a Japanese ritual of lighting a candle as an offering at the Buddhist altar, which solves the problem of the ritual. The candles that solve this problem are not the same as the candles we are trying to sell.

What does the candle we are trying to sell solve? Basically, it's the same as a Yankee candle with a fragrance. These candles come in pretty jars and smell nice when lit. If you dim the lights in a room and light a candle, it's the perfect atmosphere to relax in. It can also be a good idea to have dinner with your girlfriend or boyfriend. In this case, the problem is that you want to get rid of fatigue after work, and the solution is to create a relaxing atmosphere. In terms of creating a pleasant scent and a soft atmosphere, taking a bath may be a competitor to these fragrance candles. In other words, people pay for the relaxation, not for the candles. So if we sell our candles to elderly men who are already retired and not feeling very stressed, they won't buy them.

There is an example of a candle in my favourite book, "Overcrowed". Price's candle, the world's largest candle maker, filed for bankruptcy in 2001, offering "a light solution to the problem of blackouts and other forms of darkness". They have since re-launched their business with a focus on candles that provide ambience rather than light.

It seems that the market for these fragrance candles is expanding at roughly 10% per year.

When I was writing this blog, I found out that the Amazon review rating of this fragrance candle is decreasing. I think this is because people have been infected with the Corona Virus and have lost their smell. This article shows that what people want from candles nowadays is not light, but the fragrance.

To get to the heart of the matter, we should not focus on the product as a solution, but rather on the problem it solves, and how much each solution can help us. This is true not only for business in developed countries but also for solving energy problems in developing countries. I have written a paper on this subject, so please read it ;-)

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