Ties Kroezen Fellow 2011

Living in: Utrecht — Netherlands

Venture: NICE International

A network of solar-powered ICT-based service centers in Africa

Operating in: Sub-Saharan Africa

Impact Area: Education, Energy, Enterprise Development, ICT / Digital...

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Photo of Ties Kroezen

"A pragmatic entrepreneur with a track record in building social enterprises with large-scale impact in Africa."

Jump to:   Basics  |  Team  |  Venture  |  Milestones

Basics

Describe yourself briefly.

After attaining my Masters degree in Business Science from Twente University in The Netherlands, I worked as an international strategy consultant for 15 years for the likes of Accenture and KPMG. In 2004, I decided to contribute my expertise and experience to a better world and moved with my family to Ghana to set-up SFMC, a company offering small-scale farmers better access to markets. This company is now successfully working with over 10,000 farmers. I subsequently co-founded FairMatch Support, an organization building supply chains for sustainable food products from developing countries to the European market. I joined NICE in 2008, building it from a pilot into a profitable business with 7 locations in The Gambia. In 2013 I closed the international office of NICE and handed over the local business to management.

Describe your Unreasonable Venture in 100 words or less.

NICE is an innovative and sustainable concept to overcome some of the barriers to access to energy and Internet in developing countries. NICE-centers provide affordable access to energy, ICT, Internet and development services, such as education. For companies and development organizations NICE-centers offer an efficient communication and distribution channel to the Base of the Pyramid. Customers have to pay for the services, enabling financial sustainability and ensuring that real needs are addressed. Using a franchise model, scaling-up is a powerful thread embedded in the concept. Franchisers are fully trained and are locally backed by a national office for technical, operational and management support. Each centre is located in reach of 20,000 people on average.

Team

Describe your relevant experience (especially entrepreneurial).

After my MBA, I worked as an international strategy consultant for 15 years. In 2004, I decided to contribute my expertise and experience to a better world and moved with my family to Ghana to set-up SFMC, a company offering small-scale farmers better access to markets. This company is now successfully working with over 10,000 farmers. I subsequently co-founded FairMatch Support, an organization building supply chains for sustainable food products from developing countries to the European market. I joined NICE in 2008, building it from a pilot to a profitable business with 7 locations in The Gambia. My ambition is to make NICE the 'McDonalds of Africa'. However, instead of selling burgers, our hundreds of NICE-centers will sell ICT-based development services to the local people.

Why is your team uniquely qualified to run this venture?

I am working in The Netherlands, supporting our country team in The Gambia and in other African countries in the near future. Our team in The Gambia has been managed by Omar Njie since the start in 2006. Omar is a Gambian national and holds a bachelor degree in Business and Marketing from the University of Glenmorgan (UK). He has working experience in Europe and The Gambia and held management positions in ICT, consumer products and real estate. The technical manager of NICE Gambia is Sander Groeneveld, a 30 year old Dutch national with degrees in electrical engineering and in development studies. In The Gambia we employ 6 people directly and another 35 through our franchisers. The franchisers are local entrepreneurs who operate a NICE-centers as their business.

Venture

What is the urgent social or environmental need you're addressing?

Access to basic services, such as electricity and Internet, is a strong driver for economic growth in developing countries. The World Bank found that a 10 percent point increase in Internet access increases GDP by 1.1 – 1.4%. However, access to Internet in Sub-Saharan Africa is still very low at 4%, due to the cost of computers and connectivity and lack of electricity. Internet can provide access to information, knowledge, networks and markets. ICT-skills are demanded by many employers but not taught at most schools. ICT-services can enhance rural development, increase access to and quality of education, reduce transport to main cities for basic services and play a major role in targeting vulnerable groups for poverty alleviating projects.

What is your solution to this need? Describe your business strategy.

NICE is an innovative and sustainable concept to overcome some of the barriers to access to energy and Internet in developing countries. NICE-centers provide affordable access to energy, ICT, Internet and development services, such as education. For companies and development organizations NICE-centers offer an efficient communication and distribution channel to the Base of the Pyramid. Customers have to pay for the services, enabling financial sustainability and ensuring that real needs are addressed. Using a franchise model, scaling-up is a powerful thread embedded in the concept. Franchisers are fully trained and are locally backed by a national office for technical, operational and management support. Each centre is located in reach of 20,000 people on average.

Milestones

Convince us it will work. What milestones have you achieved?

NICE started operations in The Gambia in 2006, where we currently operate seven NICE-centers, each serving app. 3,000 people. These centers are very successful and have demonstrated the viability of the NICE-concept. The technical infrastructure has proven its robustness and can be locally maintained. Customers are very satisfied and score NICE 8 out of 10 on overall quality of service. NICE-centers are profitable with sales of USD 3,000 – 3,500 a month. NICE was the winner of the 2008 Energy Globe award for The Gambia. Our ambition is to have 250 NICE-centers in Africa in 2020, serving 1 million people and growing the economies in the target countries by USD 100 million per annum. 250 entrepreneurs will be supported in setting up a profitable business and 1,250 staff will be employed.

Current Needs

  • Contacts with companies and NGOs targeting the BoP-market in Africa

Elevator Pitch

Elevator Pitch

Climax Presentation

Climax Presentation

Updates From This Fellow

Date Event / Update
Aug 25, 2011 NICE is about to close the funding for the next 4 years. This will allow us to expand to Tanzania and Zambia and set-up 50 new NICE-centers.
Aug 25, 2011 We are looking for partners who want their products, services or information to be distributed through the NICE-centers. Do you target the BoP and do you have problems to reach your target customers, NICE provides a growing network of IT-enabled retail outlet in Africa serving BoP-consumers and small entrepreneurs.

 

Want More?

Use the links below to read more about this Fellow.

  

The NICE International Website