HomeCompany NewsCatching up with Takatso's co-founder and CEO, Mickael Pourteau

Catching up with Takatso’s co-founder and CEO, Mickael Pourteau

Lifestyle and Tech reporter Dumani Moyo recently spoke with Mickael Pourteau, co-founder and CEO of Takatso (Pty) Ltd. Takatso is a multidisciplinary engineering and project management enterprise founded in 2018 in South Africa, locally owned and managed. The company provides interventions in access to water, energy and food thanks to its tailored engineering solutions approach.

Here is a transcript of the interview where DM stands for Dumani Moyo and MP for Mickael Pourteau.

DM: How did you develop the concept for Takatso?

MP: The ideas and reasons behind Takatso’s creation and developments are numerous. It all started in 2018, while I was spending days in a row travelling throughout South Africa. Indeed, driving Kilometers on and through different South African provinces such as Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Eastern and Western Cape, I could only realize how dry the country is, how difficult it is for communities to obtain primary vital needs such as water, food and energy. I could also realize that the country was lacking quality infrastructures to answers these vital needs. I could only be aghast to be also impacted by the repetitive droughts and power outages.

In order to answer these problems with the solutions, we decided to spend 3 years of research and development, which started in my backyard. We literally started by creating products at 1/15th of its real intended sizes in order to approve the technology sets we were using. We then spent days and nights improving, changing, failing, restarting, etc, until we matched our expectations and dreams with a standard product.

Our company approach is to supply a set of systems that are all-in-one fully autonomous and self-sustainable units, using solar energy and/or wind power to supply the required water quality, through brackish or seawater purification. We decided to use this angle in order to be the most affordable possible, which was key if we desired to answer the needs of the most disadvantaged communities. We are extremely proud to achieve this objective, with a great effort from our engineering team, which managed to take our solutions costs down by 40% in three years.

All systems are supplied as a containerized complete package with all the unit process components as an out of the box plug and play system. This enables us to intervene with our solutions in disaster zones where required.

DM: Tell us more about you as a leader and your leadership team?

MP: Firstly, I would like to say that I am very fortunate to be working with such a talented team. From my end, as much as my previous and former experiences have facilitated my own development as a leader, I would say that leading Takatso’s management team has been a great journey so far thanks to the leadership as well as the commitment and dedication of the team. It has been fantastic.

At Takatso, the culture mix within the management team is outstanding since we have colleagues from different countries and regions, backgrounds, cultures and education. It enables the company’s culture to be very healthy.

My team has so far demonstrated all the required talent ad perseverance to take any projects forward, keeping the needs and demands of the customers top-of-mind. On top of this, the team always manages to bring new ideas of development for the business, which tremendously assists the company’s growth.  

DM: What are your market segments? 

MP: We developed the vision of our company around assisting the rural communities with engineering solutions to offer them safe and drinkable water. We strongly continue this approach by developing private-public partnerships, which enables all parties to work together with the same goal and perspectives.

However, since we started our commercial launch end of 2021, we quickly realized that the hydric stress caused by climate change as well as lack of infrastructure (including poor management of the existing ones) showed many other opportunities. Indeed, today we are looking at several market segments such as property developers, hospitality and tourism, schools and clinics, mining and CPI, communities and townships, agriculture as well as NGOs and some interventions in disaster zones.

DM: What are the main activities of your company / What do our readers need to know about your company? 

MP: Takatso is a multidisciplinary engineering and project management enterprise founded in 2018 in South Africa, locally owned and managed. The company provides interventions in access to water, energy and food thanks to its tailored engineering solutions approach.

Takatso’s mission is to provide safe drinkable water, energy and food to people living next to a water source (boreholes, lakes, dams, rivers, seas, estuaries & oceans) and do not have access to it. The solution also applies when a rapid hydric stress situation occurs to respond to an urgent need on site.

To this extent, we have worked hard in adding on into our value proposition additional services within four main areas:

  1. Water Resources: Geohydrological & geotechnical investigations, boreholes drilling, testing and equipping, Groundwater management plans and monitoring and Environmental impact assessments.
  2. Water Management: Water quality monitoring, Water use monitoring and benchmarking, Water purification and desalination systems, Water bottling plants and close circuit sanitation solutions.
  3. Sustainability: Off-grid power solutions, Hybrid power solutions, Energy efficiency audits, Energy monitoring and benchmarking, Water efficiency audit, Smart farming and Modular panels homes.
  4. Feasibility Studies: Capex and Opex analysis, ROI analysis, Value proposition modeling, Business models and Financial impacts.

This model enables us to cover a large spectrum of solutions ready to market with sustainable growth.

DM: How does your company help the communities in the regions? 

MP: We offer bespoke and tailor-made solutions from a decentralized standpoint in order to reach all communities whether they are remote or not. We do use solar and wind to power our systems, which makes our offering self-sustainable and autonomous from an operation and maintenance perspective. Lastly, we do make sure that we always propose the simplest and most flexible solutions in order to reduce the costs as much as possible.

With this combination, we manage to propose our help to communities by providing exactly what is required, where it is required and at the lowest cost in the market. We have also strengthened necessary partnerships from private and public sectors to supplement the lack of funding from the communities we intervene on. The main idea in mind is to make sure we reach as many populations as possible by bringing the technologies to them, instead of having population flows and movements.

DM: What have been the main challenges faced by the business since its inception? Is the current worldwide crisis directly affecting your business, your work methodology, your margins, your customers’ relationships? 

MP: The main difficulties we encountered so far were many, but we always managed to find ways to develop the company’s growth, thanks to the dedication of the whole team. To mention a few, cash flow management during our development phase was critical, creating and strengthening the team was complicated due to the fact that 80% of our workforce was engaged with other companies at the beginning of the project and finally I would say that creating the best business models per market segment was a challenge on itself, which again we overcame.

The current world crisis, global supply chain disruptions and raising costs of raw materials have impacted most of the markets unfortunately. However, I would say that because of the nature of the country, South Africa is a little more insulated than other countries, and we should experience more effects in the months to come. As a private company, we always look out for what is next to come and we always have a strong intelligence in the markets we play in, from the suppliers of our suppliers up to the customers of our customers. Hence, so far, we have been quite comfortable in the anticipation and steering of the company, by making sure our whole supply chain stays and remains healthy.

Finally, by nature of our business as well as by the market segments we are targeting, we should have a reasonable growth throughout the crisis; as long as it does not continue for more than 18 months, which I believe won’t be the case.

DM: How does your company adapt itself to your clients’ needs? What are the new trends within your industries? What kind of new technologies can we expect in the years to come? 

MP: Let me first answer your question on a macro level and I will get down to Takatso’s approach to our clients.

The topic of hydric stress is clearly of high importance on the African continent, but also now in Europe and in France… so we will clearly see that new solutions and innovations will quickly arrive on global markets, following a more reactionary than progressive approach, despite the large number of players in these sectors.

That being said, many actions have already been implemented, whether in Africa or elsewhere in the world (new cleaner technologies for sanitation, measures against industrial water waste, etc.).

I think that the current models of water distribution, sanitation networks and energy supplies are no longer functional due to several factors. Populations are increasing rapidly and have to move more than ever in search of these vital needs, climate change and its disasters are also increasingly severe.

In order to respond efficiently and coherently, we must develop much simpler, more agile and flexible, decentralized solutions in order to reach the maximum number of populations and to ensure that these innovative technologies are taken where the populations are. To do this, the use of renewable energies as well as the reduction of CO2e emissions in the overall supply chains are key and absolutely necessary.

Now, with regards to Takatso, we always approach our clients with the same angle. We make sure to firstly understand the entire requirements through several assessments and audits techniques we have put in place in time, in order to receive the full scope of the project. This enables us to provide the right level of consulting information and to answer to the clients’ exact needs, which prevents the customers to pay for a solution that would be either over engineered or to pay for technologies that will be useless in terms of dealing with the exact problem (water contamination etc.).

This approach of mixing standard products and services with a tailored and bespoke approach to the customers needs is proven to be both a success on quality and turnaround time as well as cash flow management for our client base.

DM: What do your customers expect from your company?

MP: Firstly, we always treat our customers with extensive care both on their request and their needs. When a customer comes to us, this is because there is a problem that requires a solution and we are here to listen to their challenges, we identify the best way forward and always propose several sets of value proposition to make sure we answer to the problem with accuracy and efficiency.

Our customers are cautious of their planning and of their cash flow, so they always expect to be delivered in a timely manner, with an extreme attention to quality and details and they want to get the best price out of the best fit for purpose solutions. This is exactly our approach where Takatso makes sure not to over engineer the proposals in order to respect the client’s requirement and buying power.

Lastly, our customers expect Takatso to become more than a supplier but to become a partner of trust. This is why we always take each project as it was our first and we always provide the possibility to intervene within the discussions both on technical and commercial sides.

DM: What makes your company better than the competition? 

MP: It is quite clear that there is an already established set of companies running out there for years and that are currently obtained brilliant results, which is a proof that the markets are welcoming our products and services. I also think that the markets will continue to intensively increase and open up its appetite for different models and technologies.

This being said, at Takatso, we have several competitive advantages that enable us to fairly compete with our competitors. Firstly, by the way we structured our complete value proposition, we make sure that we touch and reach the maximum of challenges with our solutions throughout the whole industry supply chain, which is not the case for most of our competitors. Secondly, we are fortunate enough to be able and in capacity in running an asset light company within the industry we are in, and this is only possible due to the great team working experience and retained talent we have within Takatso.

Last but not least, because of the above-mentioned advantage, we clearly enjoy the current operating models, which make us very competitive in terms of selling prices, proposed business models and turnaround time for our interventions. Indeed, today we have reached the point where we are in a position to commission a water treatment plant from 1.5m3 to 100m3 a day in less than 12 working days.

DM: What kind of business models are you proposing to the market? 

MP: We have several business models within the company and it is due to two main factors, the first one from our business diversification through services such as sanitation, smart farming, water bottling plant manufacturing and operating models, etc. and from an angle of empowering the customer in providing the best in class financial models that suit the client’s solvency and financial capacity.

We give the possibility to the customers to buy our water purification and water desalination systems through a CAPEX investment but we also provide a rental and operating model for these systems where the CAPEX investment remains within Takatso and the customers only have to budget the OPEX costs (maintenance, fixed rental and m3 consumption).

This way, we can propose our solutions to different kind of players within any kind of market segments we think fit for our products and services.

Dumani Moyo
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Dumani Moyo is a journalist with eight years of experience. He has a special mix of skills, including writing and photography.
He currently possesses an honors degree in journalism and media studies. Along with his years of experience in traditional journalism, he has grown more interested over time in sustainability and environmental journalism.