Solar Charge: Charged Up for Change

Growing need for Internet and electricity prompts solar-charged, mobile biz op.


Solar Charge: Charged Up for Change

The Model

The connection centre was designed, extensively tested and modified over the course of a year to overcome solar and connectivity challenges, and to capitalise on recurring, multiple streams of revenue:

  • Satellite Internet connectivity is sold in 15-minute sessions for R10.
  • Selling scanning, printing, copying, faxing services.
  • EasyPay kiosks inside the container allow customers to pay for Internet sessions, pay bills, do EFTs, buy electricity and airtime etc.
  • EasyPay allows for a cashless environment, as all payments are processed through the kiosks. EasyPay is responsible for cash collection.
  • The management software allows for streaming of advertising on monitors, as well as advertising space sold on the outside of the container.

Owners of connection centres retain 80% of the nett monthly recurring income generated, while Solar Charge retains 20% (including advertising revenue). Each unit is fully insured, alarmed and maintained by Solar Charge.

Investment capital: R395 000 for a fully equipped unit.

Fixed operation costs: Approx. R16 000 per month.

ROI – Approx. R100 000 by fifth month (no advertising space sold).

The Founder

Before starting Solar Charge, founder and CEO Peter Graham was in the cell phone industry and a shareholder in Trellidor, Joburg franchise. As SA’s electricity crisis grew he realised the need for alternative electricity and saw a gap in the market for solar powered street lights. “In those early days we had challenges with market uptake, but with price hikes and shortages there’s now urgency in the market.”

The Concept

Graham is passionate about education. “Internet connectivity is vital to education these days, and in rural areas there’s none. How can the level of education be increased in these areas when infrastructure is so limited?” So Solar Charge began developing a mobile container unit that would provide Internet connectivity and a number of other services.

Developing the idea

“We learnt a lot from our other solar solutions, and gained insight in optimising a connection centre.” The outcome is a vandal-proof container unit with high-performance CGIS thin-form solar panels, uncapped supply of satellite Internet connectivity, exclusivity of EasyPay kiosks and custom designed software for cash flow and activity monitoring.

Getting Started

“The idea is to place containers in high density areas. Our challenge has been locations: They are typically municipal and need approval. But we’ve overcome that and can offer customers key sites.” Solar Charge has deployed two containers in the market place with more orders in production. Expected nett revenue generated from each container is an estimated R60 000 per month.

Moving Forward

Solar Charge can assist owners with funding. The mobile container is also able to be customised to suit businesses that want to sell products and services in a 100% off the grid, connected unit. “The container can even be modified for cold storage,” says Graham. “We’re engaging the Health Department for clinics and path labs, and we want to expand licences into other African countries.”

Vital Stats

Company:  Solar Charge

Established:  2009

Contact: person  Guy Robertson

Visit:  www.solarcharge.co.za

Call:  +27 (0)11 691 6600

Tracy Lee Nicol
About the Author
Tracy-Lee Nicol is the managing editor of Franchise Zone Magazine and deputy editor of Entrepreneur Magazine. She studied her Masters degree in Art History and Visual Culture at Rhodes University and spent the next two years working and travelling in Asia. Her love of people, business and teaching is reflected in telling the stories of entrepreneurs, franchisees and franchisors, inspiring others to take the leap to being their own boss and bringing about positive change in South Africa.

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