While business means cashing in on the rich, here’s a man who is ‘breaking the myth’ that poor can neither afford nor are interested in technology.
Ramon Magsaysay Award winner Harish Hande is bringing solar-powered lights to poverty-stricken homes through his organization Solar Electric Light Company better known as Selco.
Hande (49) is a highly motivated individual known for inspiring people, especially students. He wants more people to become agents of change and include all sections of the society under the umbrella of development.
He says the best lesson he has ever learnt was from a street vendor. “Rs 300 a month is expensive, but Rs 10 a day is fine.”
High On Creativity
Founded in 1995, Bangalore-based Selco has created the best innovative campaigns ever. Look at their Light For Education project whose participants include around 30,000 children in Karnataka. The company installed solar panels on school premises and the battery, about the weight of a lunch box, is given to children. The children charge the batteries when they come to school. If they don’t come to school, there’s no light at home.
We stole the idea from the midday meals scheme. Stole and innovated. – Harish
His team has developed solar-fired headlamps for use in midwifery, flower plucking and silkworm rearing in rural areas and also solar-lit sewing machines and other such innovations.
Selco has reached more than half a million people by installing solar lights in 1,50,000 households, microenterprises, and community facilities. Filled with humility, Hande credits his employees for all the success his organisation has received. “Our philosophy is to set up an open source organization that hopefully other youngsters replicate and do it much better than us!” he says.
Road Not Taken
After receiving a degree in energy engineering from the IIT, Kharagpur, Hande went to the University of Massachusetts for his master’s degree in energy engineering and a doctorate in rural electrification. This could have laid an extremely luxurious and comfortable life ahead of him. But he decided to come back to India and get to the grassroots himself.
The poor are extremely practical, but they have been seen as beneficiaries, not as partners, which is sad. – Harish
Many years back, while touring some villages in southern Karnataka, Hande came across an old lady probably in her seventies. She touched his feet and said that she wanted to see electricity in her house before she died. “Remarkably, she also emphasised that she would pay for it. I didn’t know how to react.”
Right On Track
With 170 employees, Selco targets rural families that earn Rs 2,000-3,000 a month and spend Rs 100-150 on kerosene and candles for lighting their homes. The sell them solar lights, water heater, cooking stove etc in their houses on installments that are paid to the rural bank.
The poor are always ready to pay for a facility that will make their lives better.
While both the young and old generation is busy criticizing the government for not making things better, here’s a man who is working on solutions rather than making unproductive statements. With just Rs 1,000 from his PhD grant, he has extensively impacted lives of people who lived in dark everyday after 6 pm.
If you like this story, share it and spread positivity. Tell us your views by writing in the comment box below. We read each one of them.