By Amaka Agwuegbo
The licensing of Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) operators in 2001 marked a new beginning for mobile business as most businesses are conducted by phone, thereby overcoming the problem of time and space that were hindrances to business growth in the recent past.
GSM battery charging businessBut the epileptic public power supply, which is an obstacle in attaining this feat, has opened another source of income for phone operators who have cashed in to offer battery charging services to people that can’t afford to buy generators.
Thus, it can be rightly said that of Nigeria’s estimated 79.47 million active mobile telephone subscribers, 30 per cent patronise the services of these phone operators to charge their phones.
Kelechi Akah, Esther Oladigbo and Grace Ime are all mobile phone call operators in different parts of Lagos State that delved into charging of phone batteries due to the increase in demand for the services as NEPA has failed to live up to its duties.
Though the fees charged for charging phones or batteries range from N30 to N50, one thing these phone operators have in common is the multiple source of income that this line of business has opened up to them.
According to Imo State-born Kelechi, the persistent demand for the services informed his decision to start that line of business.
“Though I’ve been in this phone call business for some time now, but I added battery charging to the services I render due to the demand by traders in the market across the road due to lack of public power supply in the area.
“The rate for charging a mobile phone battery is N50. I spent about N7,000 to build the board and fit the sockets and this aspect of the business is profitable as I make an average of N900 daily.”
On what it takes to start charging phone batteries, Kelechi said all that is needed is for the person to build a board and fit such with sockets, then buy desktop chargers and travelling chargers and the game begins.
For Mrs. Esther Oladigbo, she went into the business to satisfy the needs of mobile phone users who want to charge their batteries and also boost her income.
“I charge N50 to charge a battery and I make about N500 when there is public power supply and N1000 when there is no light.
“Business moves well when there is prolonged power outage and people who don’t own generators patronize us more because they need their batteries charged to be able to communicate and conduct their businesses.”
Pointing out that her reason for opening this line of business was due to the high demand of people to have their phones charged; Grace Ime says she has no regrets as she is better equipped to carter for herself and siblings.
“I charge N40 for every battery that is charged here and business has been booming due to the continuous lack of power supply by Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN.
“On the average, I make N1500 daily, but when there is no light or my neighbour that also charges batteries don’t come, I make about N3000. When I add this to the money from making calls, I go home with something very substantial.”
Being in the same line of business, Kelechi, Grace and Esther are confronted with the same problems of false claims and increasing number of faulty desktop chargers.
Kelechi said “there have been instances in the past that I’ve had to buy batteries for people who claimed to have lost theirs while charging at my place. This made me devise a means of tagging the batteries to forestall such incidences.
“Also, because I don’t have a shop yet, I spend quite an amount on fuel because there is no way for me to be connected to NEPA.
“The problem of faulty desktop chargers is persisting due to the increased importation of China chargers and this blows the batteries.”
Narrating her most memorable challenge, Esther said “Once a customer complained of losing her phone while it was charging at my place and she insisted that I must replace it for her. I pleaded with her to allow me give her money to buy a new one but she insisted that she wanted me to retrieve the old number since people know her with it.
“I then went to Multilinks to replace the lost phone only to be told that I had to come with the receipt of the lost phone.
“When I asked her for the receipt, she said she doesn’t have one because the phone was given to her by a friend. I eventually ended up giving her money to buy a new phone and since then, I bought masking tape which I use in identifying the phones and batteries. Also, when I’m going out, I lock up the drawer because I don’t have a shop yet.
“Another problem is when the generator is faulty or if the current is too high, it burns all the desktop chargers, making me spend more money to buy more chargers.”