Solaris Offgrid: Could you please tell us who you are what led you to start the initiative Qotto?
Jean-Baptiste Lenoir: We are Qotto, a French company solving the access to energy issues faced by rural off-grid householders in Benin. We believe that providing electricity to people in need is an essential step towards empowering them. We’ve seen a clear need for affordable and clean energy in Benin. In just a short drive from the major city of Cotonou we reach villages with no grid energy access. People are spending lots of time and money using either Kerosene lamps or generators, both of which are bad for their health and the environment. To help overcome this problem, we established Qotto, which provides Solar Home Systems (SHS) and aftersales services through lease plans. Qotto was established, and is led by, 2 founders with 20 years of experience in telecommunications, renewable energy and finance.
Solaris Offgrid: What are you guys trying to achieve with your venture?
Jean-Baptiste Lenoir: We want to solve the problem of energy access in Benin and further afield, and our ambition is to become the main SHS operator in West Africa. At Qotto, we empower our customers to have a range of modern comforts, from security at night through lighting to the entertainment of a TV. We plan to provide energy access to 30,000 households equipped in Benin by 2020.
We want to be involved closely in the communities that we benefit, and so we are building a team of local ambassadors who know the area, to do both sales and installations. Our goal is to ensure that we provide appropriate solutions to customers, and so we work closely with these ambassadors to ensure that new customers are reliable and motivated to begin a financial relationship with us.
Solaris Offgrid: To what extent Solaris Offgrid helps you deliver an impact?
Jean-Baptiste Lenoir: At Qotto we want to build a strong relationship with our customers, ensuring they are satisfied with the solutions we provide. We believe that the quality and reliability of the equipment we provide are essential for us to do so. So we carefully select our technology suppliers and partners. We use hardware from Solaris Offgrid, which we have integrated with our own smart cards for communication with the devices. We have also developed our own back office platform which integrates with the Solaris hardware.
Using this technology, we then support our customers climbing the access to energy ladder, from lighting and mobile charging to watching their own TV. With the same installation, we can begin with a simple installation of a few lamps, and then a few months later, we can upgrade our customer to TV screens. Solaris Offgrid are a strategic partner in this, providing us with empowerment and advisory services. Dave Henry, the advisory manager at Solaris Offgrid, recently visited us in the field to better understand our business and help provide us with new tools and studies.
Solaris Offgrid: Would you have any anecdote to share with us about what is it to be an entrepreneur in the access to energy sector in Africa?
Jean-Baptiste Lenoir: At Qotto we are very excited every time we switch on, for the very first lime, a 300 lumens LED in an off-grid household in the middle of the bush. The smile on our customer face is such a pleasure that worth all the efforts and sacrifices we have done to achieve this moment. We know that these smiles are the best advertising for our products and solutions. The more smiling customers we have, the more new customers we get.
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