M-KOPA Solar: Our Path to Profitability
Jesse Moore, CEO, M-KOPA Solar
At M-KOPA we have always said that we aim to be a profitable business, because we want to build a company that will attract enough capital to upgrade the lives of tens of millions of low-income customers and last for a long, long time.
Getting leaner, for the right reasons
At the end of 2017, following seven years of growth and reaching over 1,000 direct employees, M-KOPA reduced headcount for the first time. This was a difficult and painful process for the company to go through, and not something that I or anyone around the business had hoped for. But, given that we did not grow as fast as we had planned in the previous two years, it was equally important to reduce our cost base so that we could continue to track towards financial sustainability.
Those who have spent time in the private sector know that company restructures are unfortunate, but not uncommon. In M-KOPA’s case, we cautiously decided to reduce our headcount across Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and UK from a little over a thousand full time staff to 850. On a percentage basis, our Kenya operations were least impacted, with deeper cuts in Tanzania, Uganda and UK. Staff from across all seniority levels were affected by this process, as were roles within almost all company departments.
The difficult decision to make these roles redundant was not a reflection on those individuals affected. They each showed great dedication, professionalism and enthusiasm over the years in building M-KOPA into what it is today.
Pioneering an industry, and learning to focus
From the beginning of the M-KOPA journey, we have been pioneers and market leaders of the pay-as-you-go energy sector. As we’ve grown, its been important for us to recognise what functions we need to do ourselves, and which of those functions other partners can do better than we can.
Accordingly, over the past 6 years we have from time to time elected to outsource certain work to third parties where we have been able to find capable and cost competitive partners. These changes have allowed us to better focus our efforts on what is core to our business. The vast majority of our outsourcing partnerships are in Kenya, and today our partners here employ well over 200 people because of our business.
In recent weeks there have been several reports suggesting that we no longer invest in technology in Kenya. It’s important to refute these rumours with the facts: though we had to reduce some in-house tech roles, today we still have nearly 50 in-house engineers in Kenya and have indirectly created jobs for over 50 other technical positions at our Kenyan outsourced partners. This means M-KOPA is responsible for over 100 technical jobs in Kenya today, and are proud to continue as a significant contributor in the tech sector.
Moving forward, onward and upward
While the jobs we create are important, our purpose is much more than job creation. M-KOPA’s mission is to upgrade the lives of low-income customers with affordable, off-grid power solutions. What motivates us most is knowing that our products are now used by over three million people in over 600,000 East African homes.
Our vision is to positively impact the lives of tens of millions more, to scale our pioneering products and business model into many more countries, and to be around for decades to come. We aim to be both a highly impactful and profitable company that meets our customers’ needs, offers our staff a great place to work and delivers returns to our investors.
Realising this vision means sometimes making tough choices that are hard in the short term but right for the long term. Thank you all for the support in getting us here and propelling us forward to greater achievements in the years to come.