NxG Award 2019 Winner Robin Pho
Member Association: Asia
Project description: From Doom to Bloom (Right People Renewable Energy)
We help clients based in remote off-grid locations & operating using dirty fossil fuels (usually diesel), switch to clean renewable solar energy, enabling them to: improve the lives of the people in the community (People), help the environment (Planet) and save money (Profits)
Year initiated: 2018
About Robin and his family
We are a 2nd generation family business from the Right People Group of Companies. In 1972, my father and uncle founded PONCO, a business on DOOM Island in Indonesia, that provides manpower to the oil and gas industry. I left banking to join the family business in 2008 and have worked in the family business since then. Unfortunately, my father passed away from cancer in 2014 and this was the same time that the oil and gas industry suffered a severe recession. This opportunity led to some soul searching and figuring out what we wanted to do for the next generation. In 2017, I went back to INSEAD to study and develop my new business plan on how to reinvent the family business. In 2018, my uncle still runs the original manpower business but our family business has a new direction and focus, of clean renewable energy and that’s the birth of Right People Renewable Energy (RPRE).
Robin Pho is the oldest of 3 children and from the 2nd generation of the Right People Group of companies. The original family business specialised in providing manpower services to the energy industry in Indonesia. Today, the business has pivoted to help commercial and industrial clients switch from fossil fuel energy to clean renewable energy. Robin leads the business to focus on the triple bottom line of People, Planet, Profit. They are in the process of being B Corp certified and very grateful and inspired by the 2017 FBN Polaris learning journey in Geneva with Vice President Al Gore.
How does your project provide a solution to a problem or satisfies a specific need?
Everyone NEEDS energy to live, whether you are an individual, a small family group or a business. We address that need by generating energy, which is cleaner, cheaper and renewable. Since we work in remote off-grid locations, eg a factory in the middle of a plantation, or an eco-resort on a remote island, there are many problems:
One problem is that it is expensive to ship and transport fuel to these remote off-grid locations and requires hundreds of man-hours to load, ship and unload diesel from point to point.
-We solve this by producing clean solar energy directly on site. No more logistics and transportation costs for the fuel. We also charge the batteries when the sun is shining to provide energy in the night, hence providing 24 hours of clean energy.
Another problem is that diesel generators are pollutive, producing noise, air and water pollution, and create lots of waste regularly.
-We solve this by using clean solar technology and the operation is silent, has zero emissions, and produces no waste. Equipment such as solar panels and batteries can be 100% recycled at the end of their useful life (which is usually after many years/decades).
Another problem is the high capital requirement to purchase equipment. The hurdle of a large upfront investment required for the solar PV system can sometimes prevent clients from adopting clean energy.
-We solve this by providing a monthly instalment plan that makes it easier for the client to afford the purchase. Eg, if the client is used to paying USD10k a month on diesel, they can also pay USD10k a month for the new solar PV system. After 4-5 years, they will complete their instalment plan, and enjoy free clean energy for the next 20 years, saving them lots of money.
How do you create customer value?
We create customer value by:
People - Helping the community in which our clients operate, villagers, workers, customers.
Planet - Helping clients improve their environment by eliminating noise, air and water pollution usually caused by diesel generators.
Profits - Helping clients save money on fuel expenses and helping our clients improve their public corporate image by embracing clean renewable energy.
This value creation is in line with many of the UN SDGs too.
How is your project innovative?
Though there may be many solar energy providers in the market, they often focus on residential or commercial urban projects, and do not operate in remote areas. They struggle with the logistics of operating in off-grid locations. What our client finds most innovative is the financial instalment plan that allows them to easily afford to switch and embrace clean renewable energy.
What is the most valuable mistake that you have made, and what did you learn from it?
My mistake is that I sometimes naively believe that everyone will simply want to do good and want to save the planet, but dollars and cents still prevail in many businesses. Hence, it is very important when we explain to our clients the commercial benefits of how much savings they are going to enjoy when they convert to clean energy.
How being from a family business has impacted you as a person, and which influence this has in turn had on your project?
When my father started the manpower business with the objective of solving the oil and gas clients needs, this resulted in hundreds and thousands of people in Indonesia who found jobs, income and a better life.
Today, we still want to provide jobs and meaningful employment to our local community and we are doing so by providing clean energy to industries and businesses that need it most.
This conscious capitalism allows us to focus on putting purpose into profit and think in generations and not quarters. I have twin boys who are 2 years old, and raising them daily reminds me that we need to be responsible stewards and let them inherit a healthier cleaner greener planet.