Digital Payments made using IoT Devices

IoT Leaders with Nick Earle, CEO of Eseye and Nick Hughes, Founder & Managing Director at 4RDigital and Co-Founder & Board Member at M-KOPA

A business model for digital payments delivered via an IoT device is just the beginning of what we can do globally when IoT is coupled up with payments.

In this episode, Nick Earle interviewed Nick Hughes, Founder & Managing Director at 4RDigital and Co-Founder & Board Member at M-KOPA, about the future of IoT payments in Africa and around the globe.

What they talked about:

Subscribe to IoT Leaders

Ready to take the mic?

Join us on the IoT Leaders Podcast and share your stories about IoT, digital transformation and innovation with host, Nick Earle.

Contact us


Intro (00:01):
You’re listening to IoT Leaders, a podcast from Eseye that shares real IoT stories from the field about digital transformation swings and misses, lessons learned and innovation strategies that work. In each episode, you’ll hear our conversations with top digitization leaders on how IoT is changing the world for the better. Let IoT leaders be your guide to IoT, digital transformation and innovation. Let’s get into the show.

Nick Earle (00:32):
Welcome to the latest edition of IoT Leaders, with me, Nick Earle, CEO of Eseye. IoT Leaders is a podcast series that attempts to demystify IoT and give you, the listeners, guidance in how to make successful IoT deployments and the impact that they can have on business models and in this episode, the world, because I’m delighted to welcome Nick Hughes to the podcast.

Nick Earle (00:56):
Nick has got a great track record in the IoT business, going back quite a while, and we’ll explore that in a minute, really in three main areas. First of all, when working with Vodafone, was the creator of a mobile money payment system called M-Pesa, which is now used across Africa in particular, and we’ll talk about that in a minute. Then a co-founder of M-KOPA, which is an IoT system that’s delivering value to more than a million people, a million customers across Africa, based on the IoT.

Nick Earle (01:30):
If that is enough, Nick has now founded a new venture called 4R Digital, which takes the M-KOPA model to a completely different level. I think, as you listen to this, one of the questions that will go through your mind, and it certainly went through my mind is, is this IoT, is this giving back to the community? Is it a for-profit enterprise? Is it all of the above? But actually, it almost sounds like it’s a financial services company. And so it is just really interesting, the business model that Nick is able to implement. So Nick, with that big buildup, welcome to the podcast.

Nick Hughes (02:06):
Yeah. Okay. Well, yeah, thanks. World-changing, I’m not sure about that, but it’s-

Nick Earle (02:12):
I don’t know, I think we’ll let the audience judge that one. I think it is, so let’s get into it. Can we start perhaps on the mobile payments side?

Nick Hughes (02:22):

Nick Earle (02:23):
M-Pesa has been a huge success. It is widely used. Maybe you could just start off with the story of, you were working with Vodafone, and how did that all come about?

Nick Hughes (02:34):
Yeah, sure. So, yeah, I joined Vodafone in 2001 and Vodafone at the time was growing like crazy. It had gone from a UK FTSE 100 company, up to this global player, as it acquired network operators all over the world. I joined with a brilliant job actually. My job was to help find applications of mobile technology, which had a positive impact or potentially a positive impact on reputation.

Nick Hughes (03:00):
Cutting a very long story short, just after the 2001, 2002 period when I joined, what were called the millennium development goals then, we now know them as the sustainable development goals, but the millennium development goals were a hot topic. Big companies were trying to work out what’s the role of the private sector in addressing some of these development challenges.

Nick Hughes (03:26):
We managed to get it. We were doing all sorts of stuff around telemedicine, and we were doing improved accessibility for telco services. One project, which started to move really quickly was looking at financial inclusion. Can we use mobile technology to allow people that have been excluded from financial services to give them greater access?

Nick Hughes (03:49):
Interestingly, with the support of some grant money, actually, from DFID who are now FCDO, we kicked off a project in Kenya where Vodafone had a subsidiary called Safaricom. Safaricom was a big and successful telco in Africa. Working with the management team there, in Safaricom, we started knocking around a few ideas and then I started realizing, well, actually we can use phones to move money between A and B, and so we built a mobile wallet system. I’m summarizing about six years of my life.

Nick Earle (04:23):
Right, you’re making it sound easy and I’m sure it wasn’t.

Nick Hughes (04:25):
Yeah, easy. That product became M-Pesa. Today, M-Pesa generates, I think if it’s not the biggest, it’s very close to it now, but it’s the major driver of revenue for Safaricom. So you’ve got a telco actually pulling revenue in a very significant way from an adjacent sector, which is financial services. In fact, all over the world, now many systems that look like M-Pesa have come through and the technology has changed of course, and we’ve all got smartphones. Interestingly, in Europe, we all now use phones for payments, but we were doing that 15 years ago in Africa.

Nick Earle (05:01):
Back in the day.

Nick Hughes (05:01):
Yeah. So anyway, it grew into a very big business, and it still is. M-Pesa is literally used by tens of millions of people in Africa every day. But for me, what became really interesting was once you could move a little bit of money between A and B at a very low cost, you can start to edge into other business areas out of that came M-KOPA.

Nick Earle (05:23):
That’s where I wanted to move into because on its own, you could argue that M-Pesa was a fantastic success and congratulations. It is not an IoT story, it’s a financial payment story for people with very low income, $2 a day or whatever, but they have mobile phones. It’s amazing.

Nick Earle (05:41):
But it does have very, very direct relevance to IoT and in particular, how you change business models. One of the themes that we’ve always had in these podcasts is it’s not about the technology, it’s about the creation of previously unimaginable business models, things that perhaps you could imagine, but you couldn’t figure out how to implement them. M-KOPA is a great example of that, and so let’s transition into that because I know M-Pesa is part of it, but M-KOPA is much bigger, and again, became a really big company. So let’s talk about what happened next, in terms of M-KOPA.

Nick Hughes (06:17):
Yeah. Yeah, thanks. So M-KOPA is now eight years old and we built the business around using two big leavers. Mobile payments, so the ability to move a little bit of money around, off the phone and to do that at a very low cost, and then connectivity, as you say. This is where Eseye helped us in the very early days, figure out this technology that we needed.

Nick Hughes (06:40):
So changing tack slightly, if you take a step back and look at Africa, around 600 million people do not have access to grid power, or if they do get access to grid power, it’s very unreliable. Yet we can use connectivity and payments to change that business model. What we’ve done in M-KOPA, we created some distributed solar equipment, that’s a solar panel down into a battery, lithium-ion batteries. You can use led lights, low power TVs, and you can create small standalone power systems.

Nick Hughes (07:18):
Inside that hardware, we put connectivity, and that’s where Eseye helped us tremendously in the first few years. You put a modem in a SIM, so that bit of equipment when it’s anywhere in the world, you can see it digitally. You can remotely control it and you can turn it on and off. Then because I could turn it on and off, I could use mobile payments as a mechanism to allow people to buy that equipment using small payments. Think of it a little bit like a coin in the meter model. The coin is actually an M-Pesa payment. The meter is some connectivity inside the hardware.

Nick Hughes (07:55):
So we’re able to then say, give us a deposit to the customers, take this product home, install it. You have your own power system in your house, and you’re paying for it in small increments. Of course, if you don’t pay us, we can turn it off. There’s lots of software in there to protect the asset against hacking. We didn’t really see much of that at all. In fact, customers are sort of great. I can now afford to get good quality, clean energy at a daily price, rather than having to save up a few hundred dollars and buy that kit.

Nick Hughes (08:30):
So it is actually, it looks like an energy company, but actually, it’s financial services. We are using digital payments to finance some hardware. I think that’s the secret of its success and it’s yeah, as you say, we’ve now got a million customers in East Africa and it’s grown into TVs and fridges.

Nick Earle (08:51):
Yeah, and there’s so much to talk about. So let’s unpack it, as they say, and just…

Nick Hughes (08:55):

Nick Earle (08:56):
So I’m a villager in Africa and I’m not on the grid or the grid’s not reliable or whatever, but we’re able to bring power through the solar in the device because there’s plenty of sunshine, but there’s not much reliable electricity. Talk me through how I could use this, as somebody in a village in Africa.

Nick Hughes (09:18):
Yeah, sure. So typically you’d be spending some of your disposable income, which by the way, is highly variable. Maybe you work in a small business or you’ve got your own farm or you work in agriculture, and your income is quite spiky and variable. You’ve probably not been offered banking services in the way you and I-

Nick Earle (09:39):
Yeah, and I don’t qualify for the credit checks. I’m below the radar of the banks.

Nick Hughes (09:44):
Yeah, you’re sort of almost invisible to banks really, so you don’t have a credit record. What we say, but you have managed to get yourself a phone and you’ve managed to register for an M-Pesa account, and there’s plus 40 million people registered for M-Pesa in Kenya, alone. And so you have an ability to move a little bit of money around off of your phone, once you can load cash into that wallet.

Nick Hughes (10:09):
One of our sales guys or girls would have no doubt been to your village and done, we’ve probably got a shop somewhere within, we have 70 or 80 locations across Kenya where we have products on display, but it’s all about displacing that daily cost that you would spend on kerosene or paraffin. Or perhaps you’ve enough money to run a small diesel generator for your own business or house. Those are costly things, in terms of their cap-ex but also their ongoing cost. So our proposition is, put a deposit down, and that could be somewhere between $20 and $30, which is an important screen because we know then that the customer is committed.

Nick Earle (10:52):
It’s serious. They’re committed, yeah.

Nick Hughes (10:55):
There’s some money down. They take the product home and it’s very simple, on the outside, it’s a very simple product. It’s the solar panel, and you put that on your roof and you can move it in and out if you’re moving away or you’re going overnight, you want to bring it in. But it charges up a battery, and that battery is then used the charge your phone, power your lights.

Nick Earle (11:19):
It has USB slots on it.

Nick Hughes (11:21):
USB sockets, yeah. It can put in a low power TV. We’re even running fridges off these power systems now because actually the technology in battery storage has come on leaps and bounds in months and years, largely driven by the EV market. Maybe when we get to 4R Digital, we can talk about electric vehicles. It’s another story.

Nick Earle (11:39):
But we’re getting there.

Nick Hughes (11:40):
Yeah, so we have affordable solar power PV panels, photovoltaic panels, affordable battery storage, energy storage, low power appliances; lights, TVs, fridges. Then we’ve done is put some software in there that controls that according to payments received. Now, of course, we need to connect that hardware up, and that’s where we use Eseye SIMS. You guys help us with the connectivity. So if you think, there are three pieces to the equation here. You’ve got a bit of kit in someone’s house remotely, you’ve got to connect that and bring information and data back to a cloud service. Then we run an accounts management system, which tracks the payments received from that customer. You’ve got those three pieces, the hardware, the cloud services, and then our account management system, which is basically running the lending product that we’ve got.

Nick Earle (12:33):
And it’s interesting, you say that is a lending product, because I know, certainly when we started helping you with this journey, we were helping you with the hardware design. It was an engineering problem. How do I do this? How do I remotely access it? How do make it reliable? This ability to turn it on or off depending on the customer payment record. I guess that there was an ‘aha!’ At some point, or maybe you had the brilliant vision all the way along, but sometimes the companies end up with something they discovered along the journey, as opposed to right from day one.

Nick Hughes (13:02):
Yeah, true.

Nick Earle (13:03):
You found yourself with credit history information for people who don’t have bank accounts.

Nick Hughes (13:10):
Yes, that’s right.

Nick Earle (13:11):
That must have been a big ‘aha!’.

Nick Hughes (13:13):
Yeah, really. You’re right. The very start of that journey is about, can we make this work? Can we, in the middle of nowhere, anywhere in the world, can we fix the engineering? Your team, Paul and Ian especially heavily involved and helped us say, okay, we can tick that box. We know we can connect that piece of equipment up, and it has to work.

Nick Hughes (13:35):
The customer, there’s this beautiful technology under the bonnet, really, but to the customer, it’s got to be completely invisible, it just has to work out of the box every time the customer wants to turn that product on. Getting that bit right is essential because then you build trust from your customers and they start repaying. Then as they’re repaying, we know we are profiling their ability to repay and the speed of repayment. So yeah, you’re right. We suddenly started getting visibility of customers’ ability to buy things on a page of go basis that we’ve previously just made assumptions about. We had no idea. Although you could argue that the telcos have been doing pay as you go as you know, for years. In fact, across emerging economies, the PAYGO model is really what brought people into telecom services.

Nick Hughes (14:27):
Then after a couple of years, we were looking at this growing base and the penny dropped. Actually, they’ve just purchased some collateral for their household and we can refinance it. So once they’ve paid it off or paid almost all of it off, then suddenly we know they have an asset in their house or their small business, which we can get visibility off. We know how they’re using it. Of course, remember, we can turn it and off. Then we were able to say, okay, well we can re-lend against that product. So if they need a loan for school fees or a loan for their business, we can reset the credit level on the power system and offer them cashback to their M-Pesa account.

Nick Earle (15:08):
So you’re doing it through the device. So the device now becomes a hub, not just for home, for aggregation of power, and we’ll then get into that. That’s a big issue, not just in emerging markets, but all the way around the world. In fact, we recently recorded a podcast with an EV charging company about the race for the home hub for EV chargers and car batteries, and whatever. But going back to that, when I was growing up, the catalogue guy would come and knock on the door and you’re buying stuff from the network.

Nick Hughes (15:38):
Yeah, that’s true. No, that’s true.

Nick Earle (15:43):
Bought everything off a catalogue, and now it’s called Amazon. But you’re actually able to increase their credit limit because you’ve got credit history, so they can now buy more things, and it’s all done through an IoT. It’s a business model but it’s delivered to them through an IoT device.

Nick Hughes (15:57):
Yeah, definitely. Two big leavers, the digital payments and then connectivity through IoT. Those two things, I think are huge leavers when we think about new business models, and this led to 4R Digital, because M-KOPA is very much a consumer-facing business, and it’s moved from-

Nick Earle (16:18):
So what happened next?

Nick Hughes (16:19):
Well, then when you start to explore that model even further and you think, okay, well what about all these value chains where there’s inefficiency at the moment? We’ve touched on electric vehicles. They are perfect for IoT applications. Of course, they’re complex, you’ve got a vehicle, you need a charging infrastructure, but if you’ve got data on how that ecosystem of elements within an electric vehicle playwork, then that data allows you, couple it with payments again and you can start to think about pay as you go models for electric vehicle usage.

Nick Hughes (16:53):
For me, that’s hugely interesting because electric vehicles and that sort of last-mile delivery opportunity in emerging economies are going to be huge. In Asia, we already see literally tens of thousands of EVs coming out every month. Africa’s going to catch up. I think there’s a big opportunity for electric vehicles in Africa, and we have to blend in some financing services alongside it.

Nick Earle (17:20):
Otherwise, it won’t work, will it? It’s fine here. I’m sitting at my house in the UK. I have an EV charger in my garage, not far away from where I am, but I didn’t have to worry. I paid for it when I bought the electric car, but I’m in a completely privileged position compared to people in the market that you’re addressing. Unless you solve the credit and the business model, as you say, the technology adoption will fail because the price of the cars-

Nick Hughes (17:48):
Yeah, the affordability. Yeah, that’s right.

Nick Earle (17:51):
But still, you’re saying, well, I don’t want to. If I’m selling anything that’s electrically powered, connected to this hub or is going to be associated with this hub, I’m still worried about the credit risk of my customers. It’s like a waterfall, the impression I’m getting, it’s like a waterfall. You start with M-Pesa, and M-Pesa’s flowed to M-KOPA, and you realized what to do. Now, M-KOPA is now flowing into another variation, mutating into a variation of another business model, called 4R Digital. So what it’s all about?

Nick Hughes (18:28):
Yeah, so 4R Digital is, we’re focusing more on business to business services. So if you think of these challenges that confront many business value chains. The consumer one, I think is what we’ve tackled with M-KOPA is consumer access to clean energy consumer appliances, including smartphones, which are now rocketing away because we can offer an affordable way to acquire a smartphone.

Nick Hughes (18:55):
But if you put that to one side, you’ve also got very inefficient value chains. We’ve talked about mobility and vehicle usage, but if you think about agriculture, agriculture is a key industry, a sector right across Africa, and yet it’s full of inefficiencies. So if you think about bringing equipment into agricultural value chains that can improve efficiencies, either yield outputs from things like solar-powered water pumps and irrigation systems, that’s quite an expensive kit, but if I can connect it, monitor it and finance it, it suddenly becomes a way to bring in production equipment. So we move more from a consumption model and M-KOPA type model towards a productive use model. I think that’s what we’re doing in 4R Digital. It’s all about working with business clients to find opportunities to increase productivity through value chains, where you bump up against these problems of expensive equipment and lack of financing.

Nick Earle (20:02):
So I’m now in a, I don’t know, a small village or I’m in this town and I want to have one of these expensive bits of equipment. I’m a business, and the reason I want that expensive bit of equipment is I want to build a business around it.

Nick Hughes (20:18):

Nick Earle (20:21):
I want to sell the capabilities of that equipment. I’ve now extended the value chain, a B2B.

Nick Hughes (20:27):

Nick Earle (20:28):
So the model morphs, I guess, doesn’t it? I mean, I know you’re just introducing this now, you’ve launched it. The model now morphs into, I think what you’re saying, you can enable me to make a business out of a piece of equipment that previously I couldn’t do.

Nick Hughes (20:45):
That’s right.

Nick Earle (20:46):
Talk me through how that works.

Nick Hughes (20:48):
Yeah, that’s exactly right. I think if we can find a way to allow the owner or operator of that equipment to earn money and increase their income, that’s key. What we’re doing with M-KOPA, we’re saving households money because we’re taking what they would spend on kerosene, allowing them to buy a piece of equipment over a period of say, 12 to 18 months. Then their energy is free from that point on.

Nick Hughes (21:15):
In fact, there’s some great stats, and M-KOPA’s published an impact report, and it shows that a typical household will save hundreds of dollars through purchasing that solar energy equipment, and then once they purchased it, their energy use is free for as long as our product lasts.

Nick Earle (21:32):
And they can basically purchase everything from their mobile phone to their battery-powered fridge.

Nick Hughes (21:39):
Yes, that’s exactly right. So it’s a way of making things affordable and actually saving money on the productive side. What we’re doing in 4R Digital is exploring, it’s still quite an early stage. We literally incorporated it this year, which might go down in history as one of the craziest times to start a new business in [crosstalk 00:21:58] we’re seeing at the moment.

Nick Hughes (22:02):
But it’s about finding applications of the same model, but where you’re allowing the owner or operator of the equipment to increase revenue. You can think about, we talked about agricultural systems, there’s potentially ways to finance into electric vehicles. If you think about small informal retail outlets where you can start to think about things like water purification equipment, that’s expensive, and yet there’s a need for clean water. Quite expensive to create it sometimes, we can finance a way into that. So there’s lots of opportunities. For me, it’s very exciting. I think we’re just about starting to realize what we can do with IoT when you couple it up with payments. As I look ahead, and these aren’t all emerging economy applications. It doesn’t take a big imagination-

Nick Earle (22:57):
No, this innovation is going to start there and spread into more established economies. But if I’m this villager, so I really get it here, I going to run a business out of a water purification unit. It’s an expensive item. I know I can now buy it from you, in a way, as a business extension of the first model, I can buy it from you. But I guess what it means is my customer’s who I’m going to sell these water purification services to, they can pay for my service with mobile money.

Nick Hughes (23:29):
Yes, exactly.

Nick Earle (23:30):
That all goes through the system. You’ve extended the model from a centralized model, you’re now distributing it to a series of tens, hundreds of thousands potentially of hubs. So you’re enabling businesses by saying, and not only will I enable you to acquire the equipment in the first place, but I’ll enable you to sell services of that equipment to people who can pay you.

Nick Hughes (23:54):

Nick Earle (23:54):
In this big model that you’ve already proven.

Nick Hughes (23:57):
Yeah, that’s exactly right. I do think, without getting too universal here, we’re now used to buying our water from mains distribution systems, our power from high voltage distribution networks. If you were starting again, we would never design infrastructure that way. You wouldn’t do it, because it’s hugely inefficient, very expensive. In emerging economies, you don’t have that incumbent infrastructure.

Nick Hughes (24:28):
You can go straight to quite light touch, much more bespoke, distributed models for many, many things. If you’ve got the ability to move, with digital finance, to move money around, that’s a whole series of barriers moved to one side. Then IoT brings you visibility. You can look at equipment, you can monitor it, you can update it, you can run digital twins. We’re getting super interested, energy storage, of course, is all about the performance of good quality batteries for energy storage. You think about creating a digital twin, where you can monitor performance, you can provide software updates, you can model the performance of that energy storage over time. Then at some point, you need to bring that back to the real world, and you can manage your energy storage business in a much smarter way because of connectivity and the ability to model things virtually before you need to spend the money of getting it fixed on the ground.

Nick Earle (25:34):
One of the great things about this podcast series, when we started it to bring really interesting stories to the listeners, and this is a fabulous story, it’s multiple stories, but I guess one thing certainly I didn’t realize is the extent to which they would all start to connect together. Because what you just said is almost word for word for a recent one that we recorded, which was with an EV charging company called Pod Point in the UK.

Nick Earle (26:00):
They were talking about the disintermediation of the EVSE industry, the industry for supplying electric into homes. This point about, we’ve all had these relationships with a power company, a utility company and the way the supply chain works. Now there’s the emergence of these new intermediaries and the idea of an aggregation hub in the home, which could be linked to your car, it could be linked to some solar panels, and whatever.

Nick Hughes (26:32):

Nick Earle (26:34):
Then the idea that you could use it to broker, you could actually have bids on there, which says, who wants to sell me electricity today? Who else wants to buy my excess electricity? Very quick bursts during halftime in a sports game, whenever we get one in the UK or whatever, make a coffee in the US. But the idea of disintermediating the supply chain and actually getting power to the user.

Nick Earle (27:01):
Every single podcast we’ve done, when we look at the story, it always results in what IoT is and it’s not technology. Yes, there are some really hard technology problems you have to solve and we talked about that. We know that as it’s the industry we’re in, but at the end of the day, they take off when you empower the user. The user takes control of them. The user is taking control of their payments, so the user is taking control of how they use that electricity, and then can acquire products for the home. The fridge, the TV, the phone. Now the user is taking control, they can actually take control of their life by being able to set up a business and enabling them to run a business. As you say, that is not a model that’s just complying with emerging markets.

Nick Hughes (27:53):

Nick Earle (27:54):
It will arguably get adopted quicker in emerging markets because you don’t have the legacy introspective.

Nick Hughes (28:00):
Exactly right.

Nick Hughes (28:02):
Yeah, and if we look at the big forces starting to get interested in this space. We do a lot of work with Microsoft. If they envisage their future, you see obviously the growth of the cloud services model, but all this stuff that’s happening at the edge of the cloud and these distributed models, I think they’re sensing that. They’re not the only ones, of course, but they’re all sensing this opportunity there are business models out there waiting to be created that utilize this technology well.

Nick Hughes (28:36):
But your point is a really good one. You’ve got to stay focused on the consumer or the user if it’s a business user. You’ve got to either save them money or make them money. You’ve got to solve a problem somewhere.

Nick Earle (28:51):
Otherwise, it’s just technology.

Nick Hughes (28:54):
Otherwise, it’s just the technology, yeah. We’ve seen, I’m sure you share this with your own professional history, we’ve seen people get too excited about the technology and forget, actually, what’s the application of this in the real world?

Nick Earle (29:06):

Nick Hughes (29:06):
4R Digital, so we’re trying to keep our feet on the ground. Let’s find three or four good applications of connectivity and payments, and work with partners to tease out all of the hard bits. Then think about what the scale opportunity might be in the end. I’m excited. I think it’s been a dreadful year, as we know all over the world with COVID, but if anything, if there’s a silver lining anywhere, it has to be around the accelerated adoption of digital products and services, because we can do things differently. We can do things at a lower cost and much more efficiently, but we need to step in and get our hands dirty on the hard bits to make these business models work properly. But it is possible.

Nick Earle (29:59):
It is possible and arguably fundamental. Just to finish, a couple of points really. You mentioned Microsoft. I know that one of the things that we worked with you is to get all this information into Azure. This is one of the largest Azure implementations in Africa, I believe.

Nick Hughes (30:18):
Yes, yes.

Nick Earle (30:18):
Tony Shakib, who runs IoT globally for Microsoft, we’re hoping to be a future guest on the podcast, so that will be very interesting from his perspective. But secondly, this issue of technology adoption in a downturn, I probably used this phrase before on the previous one, but something I learned in my career when I was in Cisco and HP and startups is that it’s a Formula One analogy, you don’t overtake on the straights, you overtake on the corners. Technology adoption, when you look back, very definitely always accelerates in downturns.

Nick Earle (30:57):
New companies, there’s a direct correlation. I don’t know the exact data, but somebody somewhere in business school has proved it, a very high proportion of the market leaders in technology, the waves of occupations were actually founded, you map them back, they were founded in downturns. Of course, the reason for that is what you just said. Downturn puts so much focus on your costs, puts so much focus, and you have to do something different.

Nick Earle (31:25):
What happens is that typically, small companies say there is a completely new way of doing this. Like I’m going to build a whole model around the user, as opposed to from the brand to the user. I’m going to actually enable a brand new experience. As a result of that, what happens is disruption is accelerated. And so what you’re seeing is that the overall market, you look at the market share numbers and the total amount of money spent seems to come down to low single digits but within that, the total amount of money spent on new implementations is absolutely booming. It’s invisible. You can’t see it until suddenly it’s too late and everyone says, well, I always knew this had to be the model.

Nick Hughes (32:13):
Yeah, that’s true. Yeah, that is easy to say, isn’t it?

Nick Earle (32:15):
It is easy to say.

Nick Hughes (32:18):
Yeah, look, I agree. Necessity is the mother of invention, isn’t it? I think we know, technically, we can make these sorts of models work. There are challenges there and you’ve got to get the technology at the right cost. As we were talking about earlier, it’s got to work out the box, and where you guys have helped over the years on that, that’s fundamental. Nothing’s going to happen if the technology doesn’t work, but you must stay focused on what’s the need or the problem that I’m tackling. For me, I am an optimist. I think we are going to see the adoption of better business models that are more inclusive and these can be for profit. We can do this and-

Nick Earle (33:05):
Yeah, we agree. You’re not registered, in case people are thinking you’re a registered charity. No, you’re a profitable, established business.

Nick Hughes (33:14):
Yeah, that’s right. I think it’s possibly a longer game than I think … We sometimes think things will happen super quickly. They don’t happen that quickly, but when they do happen, I think the magnitude of the impact they can have, can be massive. We’ve seen, certainly, I’ve had the privilege of working with brilliant teams on M-Pesa and M-KOPA, and I look forward, I can see some really exciting new opportunities. They take working out, they don’t fall out of the sky.

Nick Earle (33:43):
Yes, that’s right.

Nick Hughes (33:44):
They take a lot of work, but given the year we’ve had, I’m still an optimist for this stuff. I think we know there are better ways to do things and we can use technology to our advantage to find profitable paths into some of those new business models.

Nick Earle (34:02):
So, Nick, I think it’s a wonderful story. I’m sure the listeners have loved it. I want to thank you for it, and not just the story, clearly a big partner of ours and Eseye, but making a real-life, tangible contribution to people’s lives. There’s quite a few IoT-based things out there where it’s hard to get the human angle of the story. It’s definitely not hard to get the human angle of this story. It’s changing people’s lives for the better and it’s a wonderful thing. It shows the true potential of IoT on a global basis. There’s lots of stories like that out there, particularly good ones. So I just want to thank you for your time.

Nick Hughes (34:44):
No, it’s a pleasure.

Nick Earle (34:45):
And wish you well. I know we’re going to see if we can help you on the next stage of your journey, tremendously exciting. I would just say to the listeners, I hope you enjoyed it. Remember, this is the IoT Leaders podcast. If you have any feedback or inputs of what you’d like to hear, stories, then please contact us directly at iotleaders@eseye, E-S-E-Y-E, .com. Having listened to this, you probably will want to reach out to Nick, and I’m sure you can find Nick on LinkedIn…

Nick Hughes (35:13):
Yeah, sure. Always happy to talk about this stuff and look, thanks, Nick for inviting me on. I’ve really enjoyed it. I’m sure we’re going to, we’re going to do more stuff together.

Nick Earle (35:22):
I think we’re going to do some great stuff together for the benefit of not just our companies, but much more importantly, for the benefit of society. It does fill my heart, when I talk about what type of customers we’ve got, I often say, well, I can tell you about a business case study, but let me tell you what we’re doing for people in Africa that don’t have access to the grid, or don’t have a bank account. People are very much, they love hearing about that, for obvious reasons.

Nick Earle (35:47):
Just so everybody knows, M-KOPA, in case people are hearing this and thinking, oh, how do I do that, it’s M- K-O-P-A.

Nick Hughes (35:53):
That’s it, yep.

Nick Earle (35:56):
and you’re new company is …

Nick Hughes (35:58):
4R Digital.

Nick Earle (36:00):
4R Digital.

Nick Hughes (36:02): Yeah, we’re big believers in the fourth revolution, so 4R is …

Nick Earle (36:06):

Nick Hughes (36:09):
If you don’t know much about the fourth revolution, have a look at it. But it’s all about, we move in these industrial cycles.

Nick Earle (36:17):
Yeah, industry 4.0

Nick Hughes (36:18):
Yeah, that’s it.

Nick Earle (36:18):
They’re just great case studies. Great, content. Great example of taking complex problems and bringing them to life through technology, IoT, changing business models and disrupting value chains. It was all in there. So with that, I think we’ll leave it here. Thank you again. We’ll talk soon. Thank you to all listeners for listening to this episode of IoT Leaders.

Outro (36:40):
Thanks for tuning in to IoT Leaders. A podcast brought to you by Eseye. Our team delivers innovative global IoT cellular connectivity solutions that just work, helping our customers deploy differentiated experiences and disrupt their markets. Learn more at

Outro (37:01):
You’ve been listening to IoT Leaders, featuring digitisation leadership on the front lines of IoT. Our vision for this podcast is to be your guide to IoT and digital disruption, helping you to plot the right route to success. We hope today’s lessons, stories, strategies, and insights have changed your vision of IoT. Let us know how we’re doing by subscribing, rating, reviewing and recommending us. Thanks for listening. Until next time.

Free IoT Device Assessment Speed up deployment with a free IoT device assessment.

Let our experts test your device for free. Receive a free SIM kit and speed up your IoT deployment with expert insights and seamless connectivity.