The Power Outages And The I-Café Business

The news about power supply shortage and brownout schedules is already reaching an alarming level especially to the i-café industry where the income stream completely stops when an outage occur. Power outages or rotating brownouts as they call it now are sure to wreck havoc on the income of the already marginalized i-café industry in the country. An i-café is a one hundred percent (100%) power dependent and time-based business. You lose customers renting computers now due to power outage and that opportunity to earn is lose forever. Unlike other services like printing which you may postpone to a later time, renting a PC is not. Either you earn revenue when the customer enters your shop and got to seat on one of your PCs or lose the chance when he cannot. This is a sad reality on the business of i-café.

With this situation, what can an i-café owner do? Buy a power generator? Hold it! Buying a generator may not be advisable for you. If the ongoing computer rental charge in your area is only ten to fifteen (PhP10.00 – 15.00/hr.) pesos per hour, better think twice before you part with your hard-earned money. It’s not only the ongoing rate that you must consider, the generator’s capacity and its cost are factors that you must consider seriously before indulging on such a venture. You may be better off losing revenues during brownouts than running a generator during power outages.

I remember our experience in 2002 when we were operating an i-café in Northern Samar, a place in the country where power outages occur all-year round. We were forced to buy a 5-KVA gasoline-powered generator in order to continue servicing the needs of our customers during the frequent brownouts. The generator that we had was only capable of powering our server and five (5) workstations but back then it was worth it because our rate was twice it is now and gasoline was not as expensive as it is today.

So, what do I say? Unless the computer rent in your area will warrant buying and operating a generator during power outages, think twice before doing so. Yes, the demand for your computer rent service will increase if you run a generator during brownouts because your competitors may not have it but is it really worth buying the equipment? Will you get back your investment on the generator if you buy and operate it during brownouts?

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