Igwilo Chigozie is the founder and CEO of Quadloop Creations, a company that manufactures solar powered lamps and other devices. He spoke with Ikechi Nzeako on the activities of his company and his dream to build service stations across the country where electric cars can charge their batteries. Excerpts:
Tell us about your company?
We are an electronic company and we specialize in direct current and renewable energy; solar energy and everything that has to do with direct currency, portable devices like solar lanterns.
Do you have a product in the market?
We have a product in the market called solar lantern; we sell it to small and medium companies such as clinics, hospitals, bakeries and others where they have issues with power supply. That is basically what we do and we have other products that are in the pipeline, which we will launch in no distant time.
Can you describe the solar lamp?
The solar is a portable device that lightens your apartment or wherever you want to light up at night. You know that here in Nigeria, we have issues with electricity power supply. The solar lamp works with a portable solar panel, six volts, and three watts solar panel; that one will be outside to get radiance from the sun and the lamp is built with four MB; that is lithium ion battery the backup of about 10 hours when it is fully charged. During the day, the solar panel sends signal to the lamp, charging the battery inside the lamp, then at night when the sun is down, about 7 pm the lamp comes on automatically. From 7 pm it can take you to 5 am. It has a dimmer switch with which you can brighten or dim the light. It also has the power switch, on and off switch, in case you are not around, you can switch the lamp off.That is how it works.
Where did the idea to produce the power lamp come from?
My background, I finished from the University of Ibadan, where I read economics education.
How did you switch from what you studied to technology?
I have passion for electronics and engineering; I wanted to study engineering at the University of Ibadan but I was not admitted to read that and I went for economics education. When I was growing up, I repaired mobile phones; I started repairing GSM phones the year after it was introduced into the country. I started fixing small faults like charging ports, earpieces and mouthpieces and changing of LEDs. After my university education, I went into the telecommunication industry in 2014, I started as a trainee and worked with some seniors in the industry and I learnt a lot from them. I followed to sites where they had telecommunication facilities and gradually gained experience. In 2015, after all the training I had done, I was opportune to be a team lead for the IHS 2015 Solar Power Project. When we were doing that project, all we needed to do was take out the AC generators; we call them ACGs and replace DCGs which are hybrid technology and tat hat gave me a vast knowledge and understanding about how solar technology works.
How did you stat the manufacturing of solar lamps?
While I was working in Okitipupa in Ondo State, in a neighborhood, the people did not have power and every morning, they lined up to give their phones to a man who had a shop where he had multiple sockets to charge the phones at the cost of N100 and N50 per phone and I asked myself why they were spending a lot of money every day to charge their phones in a place there was more than enough sunshine. I started thinking of a device that can give them light and also charge their phones. I wanted to solve that for Nigerians, who have that problem. That was how the idea to manufacture the devices came from. The guy who was charging the phones for them was connected to a filling station and I think he had an arrangement with the operators of the station to share the revenue and they were just making money of members of the community. And I thought I could free the people from that situation; that was where the concept came from. Then I stated doing prototypes around June 2016 and I gave some to family and friends to test run. The feedback was good and early 2017 I stated selling the product to members of the public.
It has been positive and great. What challenges do you face in manufacturing the power lamps? Some of the challenges relate to the fact that we do not have some of components in the country; things like lithium ion battery and that is key. We have different batteries and I use lithium ion battery. They are also the batteries in laptops and we import them from the United Kingdom, because from China do not have good quality. If the batteries are not good in a device, the backup will be poor. Another challenge is accessing fund; the project is a self-funded one. I started the company I made in the telecom industry. I resigned in December 2016 and it was the money that has taken me this thus far.
There are many funds that are being floated by government; have you applied for any?
I have applied for the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund and I was given an opportunity for an interview in June and after that I have not heard anything from them.
The lamps are in the market; how are they doing?
Yes they are in the market but not in the shop; they are Konga; when I get orders from clients, I drop them at the drop points. I have got positive feedback from the people I have sold to, especially from people I installed the lamps for myself. Some of the people who install solar panels do not understand how solar energy works; they think that you can put the device anywhere. This thing is not magic and you have to put it at the it can get radiance from the sun because the more radiance it gets from the sun, the more power it delivers. What is your assessment of the solar industry in the country? The product is doing great in the country; in 2014 I dreamt of touching a solar panel, it a dream come true when I saw myself leading a team of guys installing them. It was an idea that people bought into quickly and it is becoming widely accepted in the country. The world is changing to solar because of the environmental factors; it is safe and environmentally friendly.
What should government do to encourage young entrepreneurs like you?
Creating working spaces is not enough; government should create laboratories for people to work in. I have a laboratory, a workshop in my house. Government should create centers where young can come together and practicalize their theories and create things; working spaces are not enough; we want laboratories and workshops.
What is you dream for the company?
Someone said solar is the future of the power industry and I told him that the future will depend on the Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence. Another one is electric car; the era of electric cars is close; in the next five years I see my company as one will build charging stations for electric cars in Nigeria.