Rensource has just raised $20Million in a Series A equity financing round which is the largest raised by a Nigeria renewable energy startup. Anu Adasolum is the Chief Operating Officer at Rensource. She drives the engine room of Rensource’s operations, providing day-to-day leadership and management, empowering the operational team to meet business goals and projections. Her role includes driving growth strategies, managing talent and refining processes to realize the company’s ambition to deliver off-grid power solutions to millions of Nigerians.
In this discussion with DIPO OLADEHNDE, She explains the idea behind the fundraising and Rensource next plans after the new financing deal.
Rensource recently raised investment of about $20million is bringing hope to small businesses as it plans to connect one-million merchants with solar energy in the next five years. What’s the implication of these technology-enabled value-added services to SMEs and how will it change things for the renewable energy sector?
Generally at Rensource our focus is on SMEs, we try to make life as easy as possible for SMEs using power products which allow them puts Rensource on their core business. However, beyond the power products, we try to translate these technological services across their other values chain. We have spent enough time in the market to know what their pains are, most especially with the challenges they deal with in running their day to day operations.
In our research, we discovered that in doing business in Nigeria, majority of the SMEs do things that are not core to their business.
Although at Rensource, energy is the main thing now we are looking at how we can make their life easier in other parts of SMEs operations that might be a bit difficult to access in Nigeria or are taking for granted. We have software’s that can make it easier for SMEs to track what is going on in their stores, monitor supply or sales.
Traditionally, it’s difficult to access data on informal business; however, at Rensource the data we have on our customers enable us to enable them to know their challenges and give them access to things that make their life and ways of doing business easier.
You mentioned earlier about leveraging on technology to make life easier for SMEs so is Rensource a technological company or a renewable company?
I don’t think they are mutually exclusive, we are both. We have always used the most advanced technology available in the solar world in providing energy for our audience. For instance, we can monitor all our systems from our office; we can switch off a meter in Kano from Lagos. We use the smartest technology possible so it’s basically the same principle however right now we just applying it in fields that are not typically associated with us. So we are still expanding our energy services in a big way, we are not stepping away from the energy space we are scaling there in a big way; we plan to be in a 100 market going forward. It’s just that we are looking at our core capabilities and looking at ways we can use them to further service the people we are already dealing with.
Nigerians would like to know the precise state you would be kicking off the SMEs plan?
Rensource operates in seven clusters across six states in Nigeria such as Lagos, Kano, Ogun, Ondo, Oyo, and Edo. We are looking at expanding this further; we want to be in as many states as possible. We are also looking at Kaduna, Abuja, and Anambra. For us, geography is not a barrier or limitation.
What is the next stage after the announcement of this deal?
Right now, it’s really about scaling our core operations in Energy, we are expanding that in a big way and making sure we give the best customer experience as possible.
What’s your assessment of Nigeria’s renewable energy space in 2019?
It’s definitely a step forward; a few other companies have raised funds this year. Internationally there is a lot of focus on Nigeria, companies who are operating in other parts of African are coming into Nigeria which is a good thing because it’s a big market and a big gap and the more investors we have in the sector the less the number of people with power problems which is always a good thing.
Also, the various levels of government have recognized that Nigeria central grid problems are fairly complex and it will take a while so solve and so while they are trying to solve that, they are encouraging any off-grid decentralized player to come in and deregulation are favorable in a certain way and that helps. I also think companies like Rensource are also showing other firms it’s possible to play in Nigeria in a big way which is a signal for others to come in.
Is Rensource scared of competition?
I think we are fairly different form everyone else in what we do, we are working for sure in more complex part than some other players. We are comfortable there and we know the field, we will just keep giving the best service possible. Competition is not something we really focus on, it’s really about innovating for your customers so they can be as happy as possible.
What’s your message for Nigeria regulators going forward?
They should continue to be supportive of the sector; there is a lot of interest in the sector both locally and globally. Investors are doing their part, so it’s up to the government to continue to give the space and comfort for investors to bring their money in. The Rural Electrification Agency (REA) led by Damilola Ogunbiyi set the tone and did a lot to bring in a lot of people and also raise the money from the World Bank that government used subsidy to the much additional players, which has encouraged more people to come in, now that she has moved on, one hopes that the momentum is not lost.
We are also looking to work with Discos in a big way, so that if the regulation can be clearly up then it creates much sense of comfort to us to put our money down and say we will partner Discos in areas they can’t transmit to but for it to work every player needs to be able to do their parts and stick to the contract.
Can you be more specific about the discussion with Discos and how feasible is it?
We are working on it as soon as there is a landing, journalists will be the first to hear.
Which of the Discos have you had discussion with?
We have discussion with a few but I can’t share details of the discussion, some Discos are not so flexible while a few are coming on board.