Posted in:Business, Energy & Environment, Science & Technology, Society
How do you bring highly customised sustainable energy services to the urban poor and to remote rural populations in India? Harish Hande, who set up solar lighting firm SELCO in 1995 has found his answer to this important question. While earning his PhD from University of Massachusetts (Lowell), USA, Harish travelled to the Dominican Republic where he saw the poor using and paying for solar lighting, which inspired him to transplant this model to India.
Harish mentioned that SELCO’s core mission is to disprove three myths associated with sustainable technologies and the poor:
- The poor cannot afford sustainable technologies
- The poor cannot maintain sustainable technologies
- Social ventures cannot be run as commercial entities
Over the last decade, SELCO has sold more than 100K highly customised solar lighting systems in rural Karnataka and Gujarat – and SELCO guarantees timely after-sales services, in spite of the terrain or distance between SELCO and the end-user. Harish and his team have the ambition of increasing this number to 200K households over the next two years as well as to diversify their portfolio of products to include other energy products and services such as cook-stoves and biomass energy.
Far beyond being just a sustainable energy company, SELCO uses an innovative ‘entrepreneur-model’ that starts with systematically identifying the needs of rural customers. SELCO then assists local entrepreneurs to serve these needs as well as to source financing from micro-finance agencies. The entrepreneur in turn provides customised service to end-users, including doorstep financing. For example, to address the lighting needs of street vendors, SELCO created entrepreneurs who maintain centralised solar charging stations and deliver solar charged batteries directly to street hawkers at a negotiated price that is collected on a daily basis.
What elements of the ‘entrepreneur model’ can be taken to the USA and other western nations?
Posted by Dr. Satya P Dash, Program Manager/Research Associate
Centre for India & Global Business