Meet the Boss: Mansoor Hamayun, CEO, BBOXX

Mansoor Hamayun

1. What part of your job keeps you awake at night?

More people live without electricity today than when Thomas Edison invented the lightbulb. While progress is being made, population growth is rapidly outpacing electrification rates. This is leaving one billion people without access to energy and a further one billion living without reliable energy.

We established BBOXX to help meet this enormous gap, driven by our mission to transform lives and unlock potential through energy access. The global scale of this ever-growing challenge is always at the front of my mind.

2. Name three traits required to survive in this role.

1. Being agile – starting out as a young CEO, agility is core to my approach and I am always open to new and better ways of doing things. We’re at the forefront of a fast-moving industry with rapidly developing technology and are constantly evolving to stay ahead.

2. Trust − trust in my own instincts is essential but equally important is that I trust my team and BBOXX employees to drive forward our mission.

3. Being a dreamer − when my co-founders and I set up BBOXX, the challenges tied to closing the global energy gap seemed insurmountable. What has kept us going is knowing that something bigger and better is possible.

3. What is the biggest misconception about your job?

That as CEO you have control over everything, when it is exactly the opposite. We currently operate in twelve markets and have offices in the United Kingdom, China and across Africa, with over 800 employees. To drive the business forward, we employ the best and brightest people who we trust to get the job done.

Alongside this we developed a pioneering digital platform, BBOXX Pulse, which harnesses data and internet of things (IoT) technology to remotely monitor our solar home systems, work smarter and better serve our customers.

4. Who has had the greatest impact on your career?

Our customers. I still remember the customers who we provided electricity to for the first time, including one who cried when the lights came on in their home. This was a defining moment in determining my career path and ambitions.

It was back when my co-founders Chris Baker-Brian, Laurent Van Houcke and I set up Equinox, a not-for-profit focused on electrifying small communities in Rwanda, while we were also studying at Imperial College London. We saw that the rising use of mobile money and the falling cost of solar will mean that Africa will largely bypass traditional grid infrastructure and leapfrog straight to much smarter energy solutions.

To truly scale and bring clean and affordable energy to the millions of people living without it, we set up BBOXX as a for-profit venture in 2010. Our $50 million Series D funding round led by Mitsubishi Corporation is our latest milestone which will help to turbocharge this mission.

5. What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?

Hire people that are better than you. I have always surrounded myself with people who are the best in their field – be it in finance, logistics, sales, marketing, product design and development, training and more. Our team and global network of partners and investors hold the key to unlocking our growth.

6. The top reason for your professional success?

The team we’ve built of talented individuals who are passionate and committed to our mission. Over a billion people live without electricity and a further billion live without reliable electricity. This is unacceptable and we have pledged to tackle this.

As a team, we strive to tackle the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The transition to clean energy, SDG 7, is crucial if we are to tackle climate change, SDG 13, while also enabling local businesses to take off as a trigger for economic growth and poverty alleviation, SDG 1. It is equally the entry point to other basic needs, such as clean water and cooking, SDG 6.

This mission is greater than us and our collective dedication has made the business what it is today.

7. How do you relax?

To wind down I enjoy going out to eat with my friends and family.

8. By what time in the morning do you like to be at your desk?

I am rarely at my desk but I’m always on my phone in whatever country I happen to be in. I wake up at 6.30 am and I’m on calls and online from 7:00 am until around 10:00 pm.

Being at the front of an international business with offices in the UK, China and across Africa, and investors and partners in Europe, Canada and Japan, I’m flexible in how I work so I can be available across time zones.

9. Your favourite job interview question?

“Say something that would scare me.” This usually catches people off guard and allows them to show their personality.

10. The biggest perk of your job?

Meeting with interesting people through business and travels has opened my eyes to new things. In particular, I have witnessed so many instances of leapfrogging across Africa in multiple industries. I truly believe that these developments provide a window into what’s coming next – be it in energy access, financial inclusion, clean cooking and more.

BBOXX is a pay-as-you-go solar power company operating in 12 African countries.