Episode 017: Henri Nyakarundi - Powering Your Social Impact Business with Multiple Income Streams 

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About Henri Nyakarundi

Henri Nyakarundi is the CEO of ARED Group.

You can connect with him @henrinyakarundi on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram and at his website www.henrinyakarundi.com.

Henri grew up in Burundi to Rwandese parents. A self-described indifferent and rebellious student, he was expelled twice from high school. Henri only stumbled upon the world of entrepreneurship after he moved to the US for university.

He launched several businesses which all failed before he set up a successful trucking business. But, burnt out from the trucking business and reeling from the 2008 financial crisis, Henri packed his bags and returned to Africa.

He moved to Rwanda to test the market for a solar-powered kiosk which would be used for charging phones and became the core product of ARED Group.

The kiosk was a hit and has gone through multiple iterations to adapt to it bottom of the pyramid customer base. ARED Group sells multiple services on its kiosks, providing Internet connectivity, collecting data for NGO and corporate partners, in addition to offering its mainstay service of phone charging.   Because as Henri stresses in our conversation, when you’re targeting customers with limited disposable income, you need multiple revenue streams.

ARED Group has won the Siemens Empowerment Award, Africa Forum 100 Innovation for Sustainable Development Award, and the SEIF Social Entrepreneurship Award.

I thoroughly enjoyed my conversation with Henri who is a charismatic thought leader in developing social impact business for bottom of the pyramid customers.

Without further ado, here’s my conversation with Henri Nyakarundi.

What We Learn from Henri

Henri shares how you need to develop multiple revenue streams if you’re developing a distribution models for base of the pyramid consumers. While he first started with phone charging as his core service, he expanded to other services to maximize the revenue-generating opportunity of the solar-powered kiosk.

Henri’s Actionable Tips

  1. Spend time doing market research and learning how things work on the ground.

  2. Invest time and resources into training your customer base if you’re introducing a new technology or service.

  3. Use online freelancing sites to hire a designer or engineer to build your prototype.

Henri’s Top Quotes

  • “I had to prove to my family that entrepreneurship is really my dream because I was still failing at mostly everything. And my mom was getting tired of backing me up. She was tired. And I don’t blame her. She told me, ‘Every time I get a call from you, it’s a problem. It’s a money issue. Get a job.’ I told myself: trucking has to work. I got lucky enough to come across a company that was extremely successful because in my mind I was thinking if there is a trucking company making money, I could make money. I could be profitable. I just need to learn what business model they’re using that I’m not using. And I came across this company and it changed the game for me. When I adopted the business model, six months later, I was profitable.”

  • “The only way you can build sustainability is to have a multiple revenue stream. It’s the only way. Companies that have one revenue stream depend a lot on subsidies. We don’t. We have multiple revenue stream opportunities on our platform because the margins are so small, you have to be creative on what revenue you can do.”

  • “I used to take failure very personally. I used to think that failure defined you as an individual or what you're capable of. I now look at failure as an opportunity to learn and to be a better entrepreneur.”

Henri’s Links

Henri’s Mentions

  • elance.com

Key Timestamps

  • Henri didn’t find out he was Rwandese until he was a teenager [3:22]

  • Why he left to study at university in the US [5:29]

  •  Henri was a rebellious student and got expelled from high school twice [10:28]

  • His introduction to entrepreneurship [11:31]

  • How he found success in the US trucking business [18:10]

  • Henri’s return to Africa [25:10]

  • How he sought to differentiate himself in the energy business [27:51]

  • Prototyping the solar-powered kiosk [29:45]

  • Diversification of services on the kiosk [32:04]

  • The innovations of Henri’s distribution model in the market  [35:20]

  • What he’s learned from building his business [37:57]

  • Henri’s biggest failures [40:38]

  • Where he’d go on sabbatical in Sub-Saharan Africa [43:03]

  • How Henri would invest US$1bn in Africa [43:59]

  • His once piece of actionable advice for aspiring African entrepreneurs [45:25]