LOAD shedding gets many South Africans going “eish” and cussing at power utility Eskom, which would have happened with greater frequency this week after parts of the country experienced stage six power cuts.
But a former Durban woman, together with her team of “lit” experts, have produced affordable alternate energy solutions to provide some relief in the dark hours.
Nafisa Fareed is the chief executive and driving force behind Power4Less, a Johannesburg-based company that specialises in providing electric utilities.
Power4Less specialises in custom-made lighting solutions and has also made strides with their other energy-efficient products, including an “always hot” geyser that significantly reduces electricity bills, and is due for release later this year.
Fareed said her company, which was started in 2008, entered the alternate energy market because “it needed competition”, and -- together with her team -- they intend to “disrupt a space that was previously for the elite only”.
“There are always categories in a market that caters for a specific LSM, but power is a necessity for everyone, including RDP homes and shacks.
“Therefore, it cannot be a market specific to affordability only,” she said.
Like all switched-on entrepreneurs, Fareed said she and her team realised in advance that load shedding was going to become a reality in South Africa.
“Our power stations were old and there was no downtime for repairs.”
Another tell-tale sign for her was that the need for electricity had grown astronomically.
“The LSM barriers in many areas had shifted. Before, only certain groups could afford luxury items like air conditioners. Not any more. The lack of planning resulted in no steps being taken to service the growing need for electricity.”
Fareed said previously stage 4, 5, and 6 of load shedding were foreign; nowadays, blackouts have become a reality.
Bearing in mind the country’s energy needs, Fareed and her crew, comprising electrical engineers, technicians and other specialists, worked towards providing reliable alternative energy solutions.
Their products are currently being sold at some of the country’s leading hardware and supermarket chain stores.
Included in Power4Less’s range of creations was their version of the twirly compact fluorescent lamps (CFL), which burns brighter and uses 15 watts of power as opposed to the norm of up to 100 watts.
Power4Less has patented a LSP lightbulb that contains a charger and stores power while connected to the grid, but once load shedding kicks in, they are able to function for up to four hours using stored energy.
“Power in a suitcase” is what their “Mobi-Volt” product has been dubbed. This compact energy source, which can be carried or rolled in a case, is powered up using either solar energy, AC power points or a car battery charger.
Depending on an individual's preference, Mobi-Volts can provide between 0.5 to 5 kilowatts of energy.
Fareed said the soon-to-be-launched geysers would consume R1 worth of electricity daily, whereas standard geysers consume about R45 of power a day.
“Elements usually blow out on geysers, but ours functions without one. Insurance companies are going to love them,” Fareed enthused.
Power4Less’ products and solutions have also been endorsed by some government departments and leading corporates.
She said the company “changed people’s lives from being in a state of frustration to relief, and we make a profit from doing that”.
“When I started in the world of self-employment, I didn’t have criteria on what people expected an entrepreneur to be,” she said.
Fareed said everything she learnt was done on the ground, making mistakes.
“I built a business making many mistakes, and I flourished having made mistakes.”
Only after six years of self-employment did she feel financially stable enough to study for her MBA qualification, before achieving a master’s degree in finance from the University of Leicester in 2021.
Initially, she completed a diploma in food technology at the Durban University of Technology in 2004, before entering the working world.
About getting drawn to the field of electronics, Fareed said as an entrepreneur she was able to see a niche in the market.
“I have always been drawn to profit in value. As an entrepreneur, I find it inspiring to deliver value and be profitable, while making an impact by changing lives in a quality way.”
Fareed said she noticed a need in the alternative energy market, surrounded herself with leaders in the industry, and had increased her core team over the years.
While she doesn’t have an electrical engineering qualification, Fareed has acquired various accreditations in aspects like solar, wiring and alternative energy solutions.
“I’ve made the effort to take courses that give me a better understanding into how everything works,” she said.