Edward Kinyanjui, a former accountant, founder and Managing Director of Plexus Energy talks of how he quit employment to follow his passion and the journey to finding a footing in clean energy solutions.
Mr. Kinyanjui, a trained accountant worked as a financial officer for a telco for years before passion drove him to quit. Despite being an accountant, he observes that the firm highly relied on power from the national grid but it wasn’t consistent. As a remedy, the firm outsourced alternative power solutions. Deep down, he knew the solution was with renewable energy.
“I saw this as an opportunity to tap into. While in employment I constantly dreamt of venturing out to run my own entity. Clean energy solution was my biggest bet. Besides, I was not an accountant by choice. The profession limited my interactions with people which I fancy,” he narrates.
With a savings of about Kshs 10 million, he resigned in 2010 to set up Plexus Energy.
Plexus provides renewable energy resources like solar power that generate electricity with little or no pollution and global warming emissions.
Mr. Kinjanjui has singlehandedly established his company from scratch to a massive empire supplying clean energy solutions to hundreds of Kenyans in a span of seven years.
“We provide clean energy solutions and supply solar power backups, solar water heaters, streetlights and water pumps,” he says.
The former accountant affirms that there is great demand for clean energy solutions that will continue to grow as the population grows. “Currently, only 4 million households are connected to the national grid; A relatively low figure as compared to the over 25 million Kenyans who do not have access to reliable power.”
Plexus Energy provides clean energy solutions to anyone who is in need of affordable and reliable power. The solutions are customized based on client’s needs. The firm designs the solutions which are manufactured abroad and imported into Kenya.
He commends the government for creating a conducive environment for players to operate. “It is mandatory for a new residential building to have solar heating. The real estate is booming, so that is good business for us. Besides, the government has exempted solar products from duty and VAT to promote the industry. The government move to further allocate Kshs 5 billion in the current budget for renewable energy will no doubt help people in the marginalized areas to have access to clean energy.”
“Being a new industry, we have a lot of new entrance. Many players have flooded the market selling almost similar products. So we have to look at ways which we can differentiate ourselves. Our customer service is exceptional and the fact that we have gotten nearly 70 percent of our new businesses from referrals is a testament to this, stresses the optimistic Managing Director.
“In addition, we continuously research and train our staff on emerging trends in this line of business so that we can continue to be better and relevant.”
One of the bottlenecks that hinder the growth of SMEs, he says is limited access to capital. This is a constant dilemma especially when he gets big contracts. “Sometimes we are forced to look for funding outside the country. It is difficult to understand how I could get an unsecured loan of Khs 5 million as a salaried employee back then than when running a business. Yet I am better placed to repay the loan right now than then,” he laments.
“We also have high credit delinquencies among our customers. A number of them do not pay on time and we have previously had to write off bad debts. Is this a clear indication of the current economic times? I don’t know but it is injurious,” comments the entrepreneur.
He also points to the increasing competition by big foreign players setting up base in the country. “It is hard to compete with them based on their financial muscles. They also enjoy big economies of scale ending up to dictate pricing.”
Plexus current employees encompass 20 permanent staff which can at time rise to 50 temporary staff in case of a big contract.
With Plexus, Mr. Kinjanjui plans to employ hundreds of people in the coming years and venture regionally. Plans to start assembling some of the products locally is being worked on so that they can diversify and sell to resellers as well.
“I want to encourage young people to take renewable energy as a serious career because it is going to be a big industry in the future. It is also hard to find local green energy expertise because until recently, it wasn’t incorporated into our curriculum as a profession,” he reveals.