Electronics equipment firm Sollatek is riding the wave of increased power connectivity and consumption to expand its business and introduce green energy products in the East African market.
The company, which trades in voltage protection and solar technology products for commercial and domestic use, is best known for its fridge guard —which has become a common feature in most Kenyan homes.
Saleem Abdulla, the Sollatek Electronics (Kenya) managing director, says voltage protection remains the firm’s primary business even as it continues to diversify into green energy with solar products.
“We have in stock energy-saving products, including LED lighting and voltage optimization,” Mr Abdulla said, adding that the Mombasa-based company has recently added Ivolt, a voltage optimization product, to its stable.
Ivolt is a Sollatek AVR (automatic voltage regulator) that is targeting factories, large office blocks, shopping malls among other industrial users of power. The product enables industrial power consumers to run the machines at voltage that is lower than what is coming in.
“You can actually monitor and measure your energy savings real time on-line,” Mr Abdulla said.
Sollatek has been in operation since 1985 as the East African franchise for Sollatek UK and is currently celebrating 32 years in the business.
Mr Abdulla believes uncompromised client service, good staffing, product quality and diversity have been the main drivers of growth for Sollatek.
“We have established some very long relationships with our clientele and have been working with some of them for more than 20 years,” he said, noting that the company has products for each segment of the market.
Mr Abdulla said Sollatek targets consumers connected to main grid electricity, and who can afford electric appliances such as television and fridges, with protection products.
“For those without, we offer them solar lighting and heating,” he said. “We look at what the market is asking for. When a distributor approaches us and says this is what people are asking for we take it quite seriously.”
Sollatek has a distribution and service network covering Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi and also runs a sister operation in Dar es Salaam.
“We are a wholesale and distribution company. Our main areas of focus are voltage switching, voltage regulation — both domestic and industrial, voltage suppression, UPSs, power back-up, solar lighting (portable and PICO) and larger solar systems,” Mr Abdulla said.
Sollatek ventured into solar energy for off-grid households and small businesses with portable solar lanterns and solar homes systems in western Kenya, which has grown to become a vibrant market.
Besides being e-commerce-enabled with a free courier delivery service, Sollatek has invested in Enterprise Resource Planning System (ERP) for the sales force and a serial number database for its products.
“If your fridge guard is spoilt we do not ask you to provide a receipt to prove you bought it from us, the database tell us when it was sold or whether it is under warranty or not. The ERP system enables our sales personnel to report their activities on real time basis,” he said.
The company’s sales personnel also benefit from regular refresher trainings.
Sollatek prides itself in executing high-profile projects such as supplying voltage equipment for the World Food Programme and voltage regulator for Coca-Cola company headquarters in Nairobi. It is also known for its supply of solar freezers for fishing villages along the Kenyan coast.
Sollatek has also bagged various awards, including making it to the list of Kenya’s Top 100 Mid-Size companies in East Africa by KPMG Kenya and the Business Daily in 2013, 2015 and 2017.
Also in their bag is the 2015 Mazingira Award in Category of Green Energy Solution and 2016 African Energy Innovation Award Finalist by Africa Energy Awards & Terrapinn, SA.
The firm is also eyeing the agricultural sector with solar water pumps and is planning to establish a full presence in Somalia.
Mr Abdulla identified counterfeits and high taxes as the main challenges to the business.