Fly: Welcome to the blog, Lars. How are you today?
Lars: Hi, thank you for having me. I am doing fine. It’s a sunny day in Switzerland today!
Fly: Thanks for taking out the time. You’ve kept busy over the years in your quest to create a better society. What inspired you to pursue this path?
Lars: I actually never chose this path for myself. I somehow got pushed into it. In the beginning, I was just trying to find another business model to sell our water purification systems. That ended in developing holistic projects for BoP markets. The drive now is on one side the fun of working in an industry that tries to make an impact but also the business potential we see in the BoP market.
Fly: I remember you started with Trunz Water Systems – an iconic product. Do share your experience there. And what was its impact globally?
Lars: Yes, the product is fantastic. The idea of using just solar power to purify dirty water or even salty water to high quality drinking water is still fascinating for me. We had a lot of very good experiences during my time at Trunz, but we also noticed that if we want to make a really big impact, we need to change our business model.
Fly: Which brings us to Weconnex that you are now heading. Please tell us about the firm and its purpose.
Lars: WECONNEX is the result of this new business model inspired from the experiences at Trunz but also embracing learnings provided in various publications from international development organisations. WECONNEX is a project developer for entrepreneurial infrastructure making an ecological, social and financial impact. We want to prove that it is possible to develop infrastructure projects in BoP markets involving the local communities, while generating income for all stakeholders. Currently, we work on the implementation of the NEXUS Concept in Nepal and other Countries. This concept was developed by WECONNEX.
Fly: Why the focus on water? Why is it so crucial that others take note?
Lars: The NEXUS Concept does not have a pure focus on water. It is generally providing the necessary or missing infrastructure to a community. Very often that is water supply but also access to energy, broadband internet connection and building facilities. Next to the hardware, WECONNEX is also providing a lot of management capacities, education and other support to the local partners and operators in order to allow the development of an entrepreneurial environment.
Fly: Clearly you have a thriving partnership with NEXUS in Nepal. What is the project like?
Lars: The project is a lot of fun and a big headache at the same time. It is very nice to see the progress of the project, but being Swiss, we always would wish the progress to be much faster. So we have to bridge the cultural gap somehow which is not easy but always interesting for both sides. Currently we run 10 NEXUS Centers in Nepal and hope to increase this number to 50 NEXUS Centers soon.
Fly: From time to time, you recruit individuals for these projects. Can you throw some light on how people may keep up with the opportunities? And how can interested parties contact the firm?
Lars: The best way is to like our Fanpage on Facebook or visit our project page www.nexus-center.ch regularly. We also have a few people approaching us out of the blue. If we see a general fit for our activities, we keep them on a shortlist that we can actively contact them, if we see an opportunity coming up.
Fly: So where do you see the firm going forward?
Lars: We are currently raising funds for the expansion of the project in Nepal. If this fundraising is successful, we plan to scale the NEXUS Concept into other countries like Cambodia and Madagascar where we already work on feasibility studies. But in essence, once the business model is proven, there are so many opportunities in so many countries… it is almost endless!
Fly: Such a great thing to have one’s passion be one’s work! But on a more personal note, Lars, what else interests you and takes up your non-work hours?
Lars: I spend a lot of time with my family. I have a lovely wife and three kids which are between 9 and 3 years old. That is always a good balance to the work. Additionally, I love to spend time in the nature doing all kind of outdoor activities and sports if the weather does allow it. I also like to watch a good movie.
Fly: For entrepreneurs beginning their pursuits, especially for social benefit, any mistakes you’d advise them to avoid?
Lars: The mistake that everybody tells you about: Do not plan your financial resources too tightly. But since the projects always take much longer than expected, it is almost impossible to avoid that mistake. And maybe one suggestion: Even when the situation looks really bad - keep on going. It ain’t over until it’s over…
Fly: Well said. Thank you, Lars. It was a pleasure having you with us. Looking forward to many more successes.
Lars: Thank you!
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© 2015 Malay Upadhyay