Keeping the lights on
Greenville Solars (GVS) aims to create greener and more sustainable solar energy to assist the community.
08 October 2021 | Business
Keeping the lights on while protecting the environment is of utmost importance for Greenville Solars (GVS).
GVS is a social business operating since July 2018 and provides affordable, high-quality Sun King solar lights and phone chargers from Greenlight Planet while at the same time creating awareness of solar energy to eradicate the use of paraffin lamps and candles. One of the top five winners of the recently announced Sanlam Bridge programme, GVS is determined to make an impact in the lives on Namibians and leave a strong footprint on the business community of the country.
“The business idea has been with us since early 2017 but the company really only started picking up in early 2018. When Covid-19 hit, we were negatively impacted as we could not get stock into the country. However, we have finally been able to get all our operations in full swing. We have learnt from the past, but we are not looking back, but rather focusing our sights on what lies ahead,” said Kleopas Johannes, the owner of GVS.
The business came about after a discussion between enthusiastic friends when the topic of solar systems started trending. “A lot of seminars and workshops were being hosted on the opportunities around solar electricity in Namibia and according to statistics, at that stage about 60% of the Namibian population had no access to direct electricity. Of this percentage, 30% of households used candles for lighting, 14% use wood and 10% use paraffin/kerosene candles. We all know that paraffin is often the main cause of shack fires, eye irritation, indoor pollution and limited productivity at night,” said Johannes.
What really made a difference was the fact that during that period, Windhoek was experiencing a challenge with the rapid growth of informal settlements and also a high number of shack fires happening in these informal settlements. “Our research focused on looking into the potential products on the market that are of high quality and will be affordable to the low-income households to assist them with this problem and thereby prevent further loss of property and lives.”
For Greenville Solars it is just as important to give back to the community. The company has a programme called the Edu-light initiative. Edu-Light is an initiative powered by GreenVille Solars that aims to provide solar lights to leaners living in informal settlements and rural areas. The aim is to assist those who do not have access to electricity and make use of paraffin lamps and candles for lighting.
“We do so by raising sponsorship through corporate social responsibility programmes to provide the solar lights for free to learners. Luckily a lot of corporate companies have seen the value of being part of this initiative and to date we have managed to partner with companies such as Namib Mills, Namdeb Marines foundation, Ministry of Mines, NamPower and Namdia and have sponsored over 8 000 learners to date,” Johannes added. “With Namdia we will deliver 404 solar lights in two weeks to two schools in Kavango East and Kavango West. This is our effort to give back to the community.
“We are currently in discussion with Sanlam, who wishes to participate in this programme by providing lights to learners at remote schools.”
The GVS team plans to build a proper office block and a warehouse that will allow them to reduce overheads and serve as assets that they can use to access funding from local financial institutions.
“We have already secured land in Usakos where our business is located and have started with the construction as this will be our distribution point and also the head office of our company. Our plan is to design and manufacture our own branded solar products, as most of the solar products in Namibia are imported and we want to change that.”
The company is also looking at designing and manufacturing gadgets such as laptops and WIFI routers that will be part of the Edu-light initiative to improve education in rural areas.
Currently they work with sales agents who distribute their products. Their agents are based in towns such as Windhoek, Oshikuku, Keetmanshoop, Okongo and Eenhana. They also plan on opening their own shops with the GVS brand around country.
“Our vison is to be accessible to everyone everywhere with long-term plans to also penetrate markets such as Angola and Botswana. We strive to offer excellent customer service without compromising on the quality of our products no matter what.”
The GVS team has shown great determination, despite many challenges that came their way the company is standing strong and ready to serve the Namibian people.
“For us it was important to ensure our company does not die and we keep moving, even if we are moving very slowly. The Edu-light initiative continues to make a huge difference in the life’s of ordinary learners with challenges in informal and rural areas to study,” Johannes said.
Many companies measure success by the amount of revenues they make or by the number of people they employ but for GVS it is based on the customer satisfaction. “By providing alternative affordable payment options to the customers and one day having local brands of solar products penetrating the market will define our success story.”
Johannes’s advice to the youth is that if you want to stay relevant in the business sphere, you need to try to start businesses that really address challenges faced by ordinary citizens. “One does not need to start something entirely from scratch, but seek collaborations with other businesses and look beyond Namibia. Working hard and smart is the only way to make it as an entrepreneur as there are no shortcuts.”