Kenyan energy startup M-Paya has seen such quick uptake of its electricity metering services for residential and commercial properties that it has swiftly moved into new verticals.
Founded by Mwai Mworia in January 2018, M-Paya provides prepaid electricity sub-metering in residential and commercial buildings, making it easy for property owners and managers to individually bill residents for the energy they use.
The need for such a solution emerged when Mworia rented a house for his young family,and decided to rent out the servant quarters to supplement his income.
“One month, I had travelled for vacation with my family, and received a bill of US$70. Despite not having been in the house for one month, the bill had increased by 60 per cent with only the servant quarters being occupied,” he told Disrupt Africa.
“For the next two months, I received similar escalated bills, and the electricity supply company disconnected me after the second month despite me having raised a bill objection. The tenant vacated on the third month when I was prompted to share the bill with him.”
After a Facebook post on the electricity companies page received overwhelming support from people who had faced similar problems, however, Mworia spotted an opportunity.
“I understood this was a common challenge for many property owners and landlords with rental houses. They have no way to bill residents for the energy they use, leading to unfair charges, tenant-landlord disputes, and in some cases tenants leaving unpaid bills when they vacate rented houses,” he said.
That was when the concept of prepaid electricity sub-metering came to mind, and M-Paya was born. Now a team of 10, the self-funded startup saw instant uptake. In September of last year, it reached 9,000 meter installations, and this number is still growing. M-Paya has partnered with two leading property management firms to implement the solution in 18 commercial buildings in Nairobi, and has also installed meters at Two Rivers Mall.
“Owners and managers of multi-unit residential buildings are forever vulnerable to escalating utility costs if they don’t have the flexibility to pass these costs on to tenants,” Mworia said as explanation for the willingness of property owners to pay for M-Paya products, which he says he has to source from China as there are no local manufacturers.
Such has been the uptake that M-Pata, which earns revenues from processing payments and revenue collection fees charged to the property owner, has already expanded into prepaid water metering, and is looking at launching in other East African countries in the next couple of years. It is also exploring moves into the Internet of Things (IoT) space in partnership with several Kenyan telecoms firms.