One of Britain’s rising entrepreneurs has signed a $10 million (£8m) agreement with the Ugandan government to provide its military facilities with off the-grid solar energy infrastructure.
The contract marks the inaugural project of Nexus Green, which was founded in 2015 by Rikki Verma to facilitate green energy projects in the developing world.
The company has more projects in the pipeline for Uganda, including solar powered water pumps for farmers and “home-kits” that include a small solar panel and LED lightbulbs for those living in remote areas – many of
which still use highly-flammable kerosene as their main energy source.
“There’s a huge problem with connectivity in those remote areas,” Verma told Eastern Eye. “Farmers are unable to connect to the energy [grid] and using diesel becomes very expensive and of course is not environmentally friendly.”
He says he hopes to follow these projects in Uganda by expanding the business into Rwanda and eventually across east Africa.
At 34 years, Verma has spent a majority of his life in business. After studying at Ratcliffe College in Leicestershire, he eschewed university in order to start his first business, in car modification, at 16.
He later pursued food distribution and founded his own brand of Basmati rice, My Skinny Rice, which is sold predominantly in health food stores along the east coast in the US.
Throughout his entrepreneurial pursuits, Verma says his parents – Baroness Sandeep Verma and Ashok Verma – have served as his greatest role models and mentors.
“My mum’s a big fan of throwing people into the deep end and she’s a big fan of entrepreneurship,” he said.
“[Mum said] ‘If you have a dream, you should pursue it’; she’s the one who pushed me to go ahead.
“I used to go to a lot of business meetings with my mum, and that helped me understand that being strategic – saying less and listening more – is more effective than being the loudest in the room.”
In an interview with Eastern Eye, Verma says although the UK government, and the Department for International Trade (DIT) in particular, provide good support for entrepreneurs, its promotion efforts should be streamlined and updated.
“I didn’t know about UK Export Finance until somebody asked me about it,” he said. “I did the research on it and it opened up to be a whole section; I didn’t know we had access to all this money.
“They need to simplify things and use today’s tools, like social media, as a better way of promoting the kind of items that entrepreneurs can have access to.”
On Brexit, Verma is optimistic that the “open door for untapped markets” will help to provide new opportunities for entrepreneurs.
He says he would like to follow his mother, who currently serves as a Conservative peer, into politics, but currently his focus is on growing his businesses. In 2007, he campaigned under the Tory party for a seat in Leicester city council, losing out by 100 votes.
“I think there’s no one [my generation] can relate to at the moment, I really don’t,” he said. “I want to be the representative of my generation and I really feel I’m a people person. I can relate to all walks of life, I think I could make a difference.
“As an entrepreneur you’re not quite doing everything the normal way, you’re thinking outside the box.”