This is One Nigerian Startup’s Answer to Climate Change
For all the climate change challenges facing Africa, Nigeria is occupying a back seat in the conversation, participating minimally. This is worrying, and exposes the need for clean energy. A startup has taken up the responsibility of reducing Nigeria’s carbon footprint by placing solar powered charging stations for mobile devices at strategic locations in Lagos.
Led by Seyi Fakoya, Saja Station was launched in August 2017, and has been ensuring that communities do not run out of power to charge phones, using green energy. “We are saving the environment by cutting down on carbon emissions, using solar power. Since we use green tech, there is no form of carbon emission. This way, we are participating in reducing carbon footprint across the country and also creating social impact”
The inspiration behind Saja came when Seyi was in a dire situation a few years ago in a remote part of Nigeria. “I was travelling through a remote area in Ondo State one day and my phone ran out of power. I began to look for a source of power to charge it to no avail. Then it dawned on me that people in these communities face this problem every day. There had to be a place where people charge their phones. People were charging phones using generators, which is not sustainable; it is not good for the environment, and not good for the phones because the generators transmit bad electricity, which spoils batteries. Those feedbacks are what we looked at while building the model for Saja Station.”
The current need that the stations address is charging mobile phones. The charging kiosks also serve as a hub for services. Customers open bank accounts, complete agency related transactions via an agency related app and pay bills at the station. Saja’s ultimate mission, however, is to power electric cars in the future.
With 10 stations in three areas in Lagos: Ikotun, Ojodu Berger and Ebute Metta, over ten thousand phones have been charged in just five months. It costs N100 to charge a phone for an hour and one station can charge 50 devices simultaneously. The startup also operates at events, capitalizing on those organized by private parties, religious bodies and the Lagos State Government, manning stations at every major event.
The impact of this venture on its users was felt from the get go. “When we did the pilot where we charged close to 2000 phones, we started getting referrals and recommendations at the point where we were just getting to know the market. We were able to build trust and without saying so much people are already aligned to what we are trying to build. Even when they forget their phones, they contact us and we deliver their phones to them. We are trying to make sure the service meets people’s expectations, and gives them value. Over the few months we have launched, value has been exchanged. We also teach people how they can use their phones, provide repair services and customer support. It has been really interesting so far, and there is more to come”, said Seyi.
As with most startups, the number one challenge is funding. But Saja Station has got support from the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSETF), which supported them to build these stations. Secondly it has got interests with Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), organizers of the Lagos International Trade Fair. “They gave us a slot at the fair to showcase our station at Tafawa Balewa Square, Lagos (TBS). Another challenge I face is people. We had to train people to manage these stations because we want to project a genius brand with professionalism. So when you walk in and have certain challenges regarding your phone, there is someone who can handle it. We have to refine our recruitment policies and strategies. We also faced location problems, but we have been able to overcome that through partnerships with local authorities. We have parking zones where we store them.”
Seyi advises entrepreneurs to take definite steps towards their business ideas no matter how crude it may seem at the time. “Just do it. If you do not test the ideas you have in mind, you haven’t done anything yet.” On our search for advice and validation for the idea for Saja, we had remarks like “who will use this thing?” “Who will charge their phones?” At the end of the day, after we cracked it, we realize that the demand is just immense. We wouldn’t have known this if we did not try. So Just Do It. Even if you fail, you will know you’ve done it. Failure is needed for success. It doesn’t mean you have failed as a person, it only means the model will not work. I have shut down a few businesses because it wasn’t sustainable. So entrepreneurs have to put down what is in their mind and just try it. It doesn’t have to be fantastic yet just pick the pieces and do something and see if it works.”
Despite the fact that certain entrepreneurs advice young entrepreneurs not to trust people, Seyi does not favor that school of thought. “I don’t work like that. I am fortunate to have great, passionate people with me. They are caught up with the vision and working hard on it. They are putting smiles on people’s faces, standing out there in the sun and charging people’s phones. They are my greatest assets.”
Chiamaka Akuba51 Posts
Chiamaka Akuba is a graduate of Mass Communication of the University of Lagos, Nigeria. She is passionate about emerging markets and entrepreneurship and is actively working with the industry. She loves her conversations challenging and can’t help laughing when you call her ‘Honourable Writer of the Federal Republic'. Chiamaka is a Staff Writer at Outrepreneurs.