Spotting the potential of renewable energy Spotting the potential of renewable energy

More than a year after graduating in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Tunis, Anis Assali still had not found a job. He decided to move back to his home town of Le Kef where he spotted a gap in the market that gave him the opportunity to establish a business and create his own employment.

Electricity generated from renewable energy is still not widespread in Tunisia. Recognising the huge potential of solar energy and wind power, and drawing on his engineering knowledge, Anis established ‘Assali Electricité et Energie’, a green-energy business that sells and installs solar panels.

Like many new small business owners, Anis soon came up against some hard business realities that he had not anticipated. Because there was no existing solar energy businesses in the region, he found it hard to convince potential clients about the value of solar panels. Moreover, there was a lack of people with the specialised skills Anis’s business required, so Anis had to dedicate extra time to train his staff. “Because my ability to ramp-up was slow, this affected my sales, which then meant I could hardly cover my costs,” he explains. “My business quickly got into trouble.”

HP LIFE e-Learning helped Anis to tackle these and other challenges. HP LIFE e-Learning is a free, cloud-based training program designed for students, entrepreneurs, and small-business owners to develop their IT and business skills worldwide. HP LIFE e-Learning is part of HP Living Progress, HP’s framework for thinking about how to do business successfully. “HP LIFE’s marketing module opened my eyes to the need to clearly define my ‘unique value proposition’ to clients,” says Anis. “I had to make sure they clearly understood the many business benefits and cost-savings of investing in solar panels.”

“By taking the course I learned how to develop a new promotional message that focused on my strengths, relative to the competition in the market,” he says. The HP LIFE marketing module also gave Anis the skills to develop an entirely new communication plan - including brochures, a business Facebook site, business cards and signage - to deliver this message.

“In addition, HP LIFE’s Finance module taught me how to negotiate better prices and sales conditions with my suppliers,” says Anis. “For example, today my solar equipment supplier is contracted to deliver equipment directly to the client, instead of to my company, saving me both transportation and insurance costs.”

“I also learned how to use Microsoft Excel to determine the break-even point of my business; and how to analyse my expenses - which has enabled me to better estimate my real costs. HP LIFE e-Learning helped me in virtually every aspect of my business.”

Thanks to improvement of his management and ICT skills, for one year Anis has gained three new clients, hired two new employees and revenue has increased by 10%. As his business is going well, Anis has plans to expand his services to include solar water heating systems. Anis is looking forward to meeting other ‘green’ entrepreneurs with a focus on developing new partnerships that could lead to even more business opportunities.

Contributed by: HP