For several months, he wondered why his electricity bill was always merged with other tenants in an estate he stayed in Nairobi’s Kasarani area.
Mr Mwai Mworia could not bear the frustrations any more because the situation kept worsening every month.
“Out of these tribulations from our landlord, I decided to find a solution. At the peak of it, the power bills tripled and we were unable to agree who should pay what to settle the arrears,” he told Digital Business.
He recalls moving to Kenya Power offices and demanding to know why the bills could not be split for every house, but found no conclusive answer. The process was taking months.
While it is the responsibility for every landlord to provide power token machines for every tenant, most of them in major towns across Kenya still use the traditional billing system, where tenants have to contribute to pay for electricity.
“The biggest challenge with that type of bill settlement is that you never know who used the highest units of power and who used the lowest. At the end you share the costs equally, yet you may only be using power for lighting only,” he laments.
Other times, electricity runs out and tenants get involved in the unnecessary argument of who should contribute what to turn on the lights again.
Mr Mworia became fed up with these ugly scenarios, and embarked on the remedial process of coding a computer software to alleviate these pains.
Teaming up with his friend, Mr Kevin Mutugi, they began researching on best software features for power billing.
“It took us six months to design a perfect software that could be installed in a private meter hardware. Our desire to give every tenant the freedom to use power as they wish became an achievable dream. I was patient with my coding, and at last it bore fruit,” says the 33-year old.
Having found meters that were compatible with his software, they sourced for thousands of meters in which the software was installed.
“We now registered our innovation as M-Paya, prepaid secondary prepayment meters as efficient means for landlords to collect electricity usage payments from tenants. I became the Chief Executive Officer,” Mr Mworia explains.
Secondary prepayment meters assist landlords to control, measure and track the electricity usage of their tenants. Tenants may top-up their secondary prepayment meters at their convenience.
“You become responsible for the amount of power you use. The squabbles of contributing to pay for paper-processed meter bills end,” says Mr Mutugi who is now the Chief Commercial Officer at M-Paya.
The cost of installing one meter ranges from Sh3,000 to Sh5,000, and M-Paya now enjoys a tangible customer base of landlords in Nairobi and its environs.
“We have installed more than 4,000 meters in Kikuyu, Ruiru, Thika, Ngong, Kitengela and Rongai. We hire licensed electricians to do the job,” says Mr Mworia, adding that it takes 10 minutes to install one meter.
Payments for electricity can be done through mobile money by tenants and M-Paya remits total revenues every month to KPLC earning a two-percent commission of every purchase.
The start-up has a network of electrician dealers who install the meters on its behalf, as a way of creating employment opportunities.
The challenge has been ordering the meters, whose cost is high due to shipping costs and tax. But according to him, this could not stop their plan of investing in the energy sector. “Though venture capital was a problem, we tried as much as we could to raise money. We exhausted all our savings and even borrowed more to realise this dream. We are happy it is paying off,” says Mr Mutugi.
As the future of power now being centred about the Internet of Electricity, the duo now aim to tap the dynamics of the Internet of Things and Big Data to offer customers better analytics on usage patterns for predictive decision making.