Africa’s Forbes 30 Under 30: Patrick Ngowi, Helvtic Solar Founder

 

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For a 28 year-old Tanzanian who has built an $8 million (revenues) solar energy company, Ngowi has a remarkable story.  He is the CEO ofHelvetic Solar Contractors – a Tanzanian company that supplies, installs and maintains solar systems throughout the northern circuit of Tanzania. The company sells everything solar from photovoltaic (a.k.a. “solar”) panels and water heaters to battery banks, generators and back-up units.

“The electrification issue was a major one and I just figured out that Tanzanians might be receptive to an alternative energy source,” Ngowi said. Most companies, government agencies and wealthy families depended heavily on generators. There was opportunity, and Ngowi wanted to delve right in. “The first store we opened was very small but it was in a good location. We marketed ourselves aggressively- marketing our products to schools, governments, hospitals and just about everyone else- convincing them to use our solar panels,” Ngowi explains.

It was not easy at the beginning. Solar was a relatively new energy source to the vast majority of Tanzanians and so business was not moving as rapidly as he had hoped. “For the first few months, sales were very slow.”  Ngowi kept marketing his business, sending proposals to everyone he could think of. With time, and as the media championed the cause for alternative energy sources, business began to pick up for Ngowi. His company, Helvetic Solar was the only company based in Arusha offering solar products. “Whoever needed solar in Arusha had to come to us. Our other competitors were in Dar Es Salaam, but it’s a distance away. We had the market.”

Business picked up tremendously for Ngowi from 2007. As his company installed solar panels and related products for smaller clients, the word spread across to contacts everywhere. Soon, government agencies, Non-Governmental Organizations and multinational corporations started asking Helvetic Solar to provide them with solar products. It’s been on a growth path ever since. In 2011, the company did $2.8 million in revenues, then $6.8 million in 2012. The company is in line to do $10 million revenues this year.  Some of Helvetic’s major clients include the United Nations, the Tanzanian Army, WorldVision, and the Lutheran Church, among others.

Ngowi is expanding outside Tanzania. Helvetic now supplies solar to a number of government institutions in Rwanda. “It’s great for us because neighboring governments issue tenders, and they look at your portfolio and the clients you’ve catered to, and they see we’ve got a good track record and excellent products. So it’s easy for us to get awarded contracts,” Ngowi explains.

via Forbes