With the Nigerian government still groping in the dark for ways to effectively address the poor power situation in the country, a young Nigerian entrepreneur has come up with some cheap power management solutions for citizens.
Moses Oraezue, the Chief Executive Officer of Power Alertz is promoting a range of services that includes providing information to electricity consumers about when light comes and goes and also other services to improve customer care nationally.
“We are not reinventing the wheel. We are just trying to create practical solutions to everyday problems”, he said. “You know, we have had the light problem now from time immemorial and throughout the time of this problem, one constant thing is that people still struggle to manage the time they have light. Why is this so? Lack of information. Power Alertz provides information that users can work with in the circumstances”.
Mr. Oraezue explained in practical terms how this works:
“This is an SMS alert service that gives you warning about when the light is likely to go and when it will be restored. This will allow you plan your use of power better within the time you have it available. You know, recently, I was reading a lady’s lighthearted update on Facebook. I say lighthearted, but, obviously, the issue is serious. She said they hadn’t seen PHCN light for over a week in her area, but just as she was about stepping out of the house for work one morning, the light came. In frustration, she wondered what she was supposed to do with the light at that point when she was on her way out to work”.
Mr. Oraezue believes this little story exemplifies the situation of many electricity consumers at the moment. He gave examples of someone ironing and suddenly the power goes, people working on important projects on their computers only to have the light go (especially where you are dealing with systems with no battery power) and situations where electricity might be needed to pump water before it’s out and so on. He says in these and similar situations, what you need is some form of notice, so you know how to plan your light usage within the period you get such a notice and the light becoming unavailable.
“What Power Alertz does is to give you information via SMS about when the light would be out and when it would be restored. It gives you 5 to 7 minutes before it is out and 5 to 7 minutes before it is restored. That way, you can have some kind of control of the situation”.
Mr. Oraezue says he understands that the ultimate thing Nigerians want is to have 24 hours electricity and power supply, but that is still many years away. While the government and distribution companies have been working hard to build power capacity up, the reality is that the people continue to struggle with managing the little power they have in the meantime. So, he believes this is some sort of power management solution that will be useful for everyone. Indeed, with the cost as low as the price of a bottle of water to sign up for a month, he sees no reason why every Nigerian household and business shouldn’t have it.
“For us, it’s not the profit; it’s the satisfaction of providing Nigerians with some sort of autonomy over how to use the power they have”, he said.
He also seems to have identified another problem, which he said is poor customer service. According to him, the fact that the power supply situation is bad because of poor capacity does not excuse, for instance, customers being left in the dark about what the problem is.
“Of course, there are many reasons why power can be out, but the key thing is to let customers know why they don’t have power. Our plan, along with the SMS alert service, is to have toll-free numbers that Nigerians can call free from wherever they are to get factual information about why they don’t have power in their area and what is being done to restore it. Such information is always useful for individuals and communities”.
Mr Oraezue says the toll-free service will be available to all Nigerians who call the lines, but subscribers to the SMS service would automatically have that information through the service.
Mr. Oraezue, whose company has done several pilot studies on key aspects of the power business in Nigeria believes that until consumers are given power over the management of electricity, we will still be suffering from vandalism and such violence that is sometimes visited on PHCN officials who go into neighbourhoods to disconnect lights or collect payments from consumers. A combination of customer frustration from poor service and the psychological and physical impact of power unavailability tips some people over the edge, but with the right information delivered professionally and respectfully and service charges made transparent, customers would be more open to cooperate.
They will also feel the need to treat electricity assets in their areas as their own and report any attack or vandalism as quickly as they see it or even prevent it where they can if given incentives to do so. Mr. Oraezue says he is banking on technology to deliver the solutions needed in all these areas. He believes that investing in relevant and modern customer communication strategies and technologies to meet the needs of Nigerians is a win-win for the entrepreneur and customer, because of the huge market.
Ms. Amanda Hawkins, a Director of Power Alertz recently led a company team from the UK on a tour of electricity facilities in Nigeria. She said at first, it was a culture shock experiencing the frequency of the outages; but upon close examination, she began to marvel at the ingenuity of the people under the situation.
“It comes down to time management”, she said. “Many small businesses, even those that can afford alternative power sources, lose time between when the light is out and when it’s restored basically because they do not have the relevant information to act on. For instance, I was at a place where the proprietor told me he cannot leave petrol in his generator because of the experience of petrol thieves draining it from his generator when it’s not on, especially at the height of the fuel scarcity crisis. For him, the SMS alert service will be a useful tool to manage that situation safely, because he would now only go and put in petrol to run the generator only after getting an alert and that would save him time, because it means he or his staff on night shift wouldn’t have to go with a torch in the dark to do it only after the light is gone. While he admits it’s not a foolproof method, he believes it would still help him manage the situation better”.
Ms. Hawkins believes that on the public level, the main problem is wastefulness. She believes that there are too many strata of unnecessary bureaucracies leading to too much being spent on too little. She says the company has already commenced meetings with some of the DisCos with a view to partnering them in delivering much more effective customer care solutions. For instance, having a one-stop place for customer care is ideal for everyone and it reduces the confusion.
“Our hope is that Power Alertz acts as the intermediary between the DisCos and Nigerian people. We have informed the DisCos that Power Alertz will do all of this, including total overhaul and rebranding, at no cost to the DisCos or the government. The gain for us is that we are helping create the best conditions for our customers to enjoy our services”, she said.
For interviews with Power Alertz and enquires please contact:
Tel: +234 809447 5008
Link to video below:
This post first appeared on Linda Ikeji’s Blog. Read the original story here. posted by ConnectMe posted by ConnectMe