Featured case: M-KOPA Solar:
Using Digital Disruption to Connect the World’s Poor

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The case

M-KOPAWho – the protagonists

Nick Hughes, Jesse Moore and Chad Larson, founders of the pay-as-you-go solar energy company M-KOPA.

What?

M-KOPA produces plug-and-play solar powered systems, designed to be used by millions of low-income households in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, who live off-grid.

Customers are able to repay the capital costs of the systems over time and by mobile.

M-KOPAWhy?

M-KOPA has achieved massive growth but there are still millions of people across Africa and the rest of the world without access to affordable energy, and competition is growing.

When?

M-KOPA launched in Kenya in 2012 as a for-profit.

Where?

M-KOPA initially targeted East Africa, specifically Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, but 1.2 billion people live off-grid across the world and a further 1.5 billion endure unreliable power supplies.

Jesse MooreKey quote

“If you take a long-term view and if you treat low-income people as customers rather than charity cases, you can change the world.” – Jesse Moore, M-KOPA Co-Founder.

What next?

M-KOPA has two priorities going forward: broadening the company’s customer base in East Africa and selling more products to its existing clients. But is this the right way to go?

 
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M-KOPA Solar: Using Digital Disruption to Connect the World’s Poor
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Teaching note
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The authors
author

Jamie Anderson, Martin Kupp and Nader Tavassoli

Jamie, Martin and Nader discuss working closely with protagonists, working in different locations, learning from the case writing process, and how this case wouldn’t have been possible without field research.

Working with the protagonists

Martin said: “The most enjoyable aspect of writing this case was to have the chance to dig deep into an interesting business model, and to have the chance to get first-hand information from inspiring leaders.”

Nader added: “I found being able to engage with the M-KOPA leaders, who are passionate about their business and customers, on a real strategic challenge was an absolute treat.”

Jamie explained: “I enjoyed engaging with a company that cares deeply about serving low-income consumers, while at the same time building a sustainable and profitable business.”

different locationsPros and cons of working in different locations

Martin commented: “It was great to be able to work with Nader and Jamie, something I’d wanted to do for a long time. The downside of working in different locations was sometimes very practical things, like not being able to get hold of each other due to very different schedules. But the advantage is that everybody came with a different background and perspective, which made our collaboration very rich. Last but not least, this gave me an excuse to work with Jamie again after already writing a number of cases together (Lady Gaga, Damien Hirst and Zopa).”

Nader added: “The advantage of working in various locations is being able to, on the one hand, highlight the importance of context for marketing strategy and execution, and, on the other hand, to highlight universal principles.”

Always learning

Nader explained: “Every new business challenge explored when writing a case provides an opportunity to be creative, as well as being able to apply past learnings from other brands and industries.”

Jamie said: “The real ‘Wow’ factor for me when writing this case was understanding the potential of IOT (Internet of Things) in even the poorest and most isolated rural communities.”

importance of field researchImportance of field research

Martin concluded: “To be quite honest, it would not have been possible to write this case study from secondary sources. Only through interviews, especially with Nick, were we able to understand the thought process behind some of their strategic decisions.”

About the authors

Jamie Anderson is joint Adjunct Professor of Strategic Management at Antwerp Management School.
Jamie.Anderson@ams.ac.be

Martin Kupp is Associate Professor at ESCP Europe.
e mkupp@escpeurope.eu

Nader Tavassoli is Professor of Marketing at London Business School.
ntavassoli@london.edu

 

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