Me and My Business – Powering the nation through sunlight
In 2013, Thato Mapotsane bravely ventured into business on his own, setting up Solar Grip, an enterprise that specializes in solar power installations.
Seven years later and the company’s reach has extended to all corners of the country, heating up Botswana like the rays of sunlight it so expertly manipulates.
“We do solar power installations for boreholes and domestic use. We can also design solar lights for any purpose as per the request of a client,” explained the 36-year-old founder, who also serves as the company’s Director.
Before starting his own business, Mapotsane worked for Solar Power and Solar International where he obtained the necessary know-how to go solo.
“After gathering experience from both companies that is when I established my own company, of course with the encouragement of other people who saw potential in me,” explained the Mochudi native.
Mapotsane obtained his electrical engineering qualifications from the Auto Trades Technical College (ATTC) in 2006.
He has not looked back since.
“After completing my studies, I went straight to Solar Power and that’s when I learned a lot about solar energy and they also took us for some short courses,” continued the sun enthusiast.
“What I have realized about solar energy is that people don’t use it in big villages, they use it mostly at farms due to its reliability,” he said, adding that in the long run, solar energy actually works out as a cheaper alternative to traditional power sources.
“It is very reliable, but it comes at a cost. However, once you have paid the initial costs you are set. But for domestic use, with time you have to service the batteries and do some preventative maintenance, which is also relatively cheap.”
Reflecting on Solar Grip’s journey to date, Mapotsane proudly tells Voice Money that the establishment continues to grow every day.
“We are not based in one area because we travel the whole country and sometimes we spend a whole month away installing solar power.”
While he notes locals are slowly warming up to the idea of solar energy, Mapotsane says what is currently lacking is public education on the use of solar energy.
“What I have seen is that most Batswana don’t have much information on solar energy, they know it as something extremely expensive. But with the solar system, you can start small and upgrade it gradually,” he explained, adding he has taken it upon himself to educate Batswana on the benefits of solar energy and how they start small and upgrade as time goes on.
Currently, the enterprise’s primary source of income is farmers who want to power their boreholes and do away with fuel-powered water pumps.
Mapotsane, whose company has now employed three permanent employees, says Solar Grip focuses on the design and installation of solar energy systems.
He explained that they do not provide the equipment. Instead, once they have done the design, the customer buys the needed equipment and then Solar Grip does the installation.