Improving the lives of India's urban poor
Select the stage that best applies to your project
Growth (your pilot is up and running, and starting to expand)
Elevator Pitch: Share a concise summary. Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.
Pollinate Energy sets up networks of micro-entrepreneurs to distribute sustainable technology (like solar-lights and clean cookstoves) on payment plans to India's urban poor. These products save money and improve health, wellbeing and earning opportunities, while reducing harmful carbon emissions.
WHAT IF Inspiration: What's one way your project dares to ask, “WHAT IF?”
WHAT IF an urban slum could become a leading display of sustainable living?
Problem: What problem does your solution address?
Over 400 million people suffer from energy poverty in India. Fuel is expensive; kerosene light is inadequate for basic chores or study; indoor air pollution from burning fuels kills leads to respiratory illness, killing an Indian child every 5 minutes.
These conditions exist not only in rural villages, but also in urban slums, and with India’s 13 million slum households set to triple in 10 years, we need a working solution urgently.
Solution: What is the proposed solution?
The urban poor already spend $3-5/week on kerosene. By spending this on a solar light they save money, remove harmful fuels from the home, and have better light to study and work by.
We recruit micro-entrepreneurs (Pollinators) to offer these life-changing technologies on micro-loans to urban slums in their local region. We train them, provide a start-up stock loan, and a smart-phone with an app to manage their portfolio of customers.
Once customers save money and experience better quality of life they seek other products (like clean cookstoves and water filters) which the Pollinators also sell, ensuring long-term business viability.
This network of Pollinators can be replicated in new cities creating a distribution platform of scale.
What awards or honors has the project received?
Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how your solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.
After struggling to make a living in rural India, Amresh moved to Bangalore seeking new opportunities. As a trader, he set up a shop in an urban slum lit up by a kerosene lamp.
When Amresh first saw a Pollinator offering solar lights in his community, he instantly recognised what a light could do for his business and decided to invest.
Having brighter, cleaner and more reliable lighting, Amresh could open his shop longer each day. He became more effective at preparing food, and customers started socializing in his shop, spending more time and therefore buying more products.
Just four months later, Amresh had doubled his weekly income. He has now moved with his wife and two children into a nearby apartment, and continues to run his shop!
Impact: What is the impact of the work to date and expected impact in the future?
Within 18 months Pollinate Energy has sold over 6,000 solar lights across 500 urban slums in Bangalore with a network of 16 Pollinators.
This means - we have removed an unsafe and expensive fuel from the homes of more than 27,000 people; over 15,000 children can study improving their chance at a better education and brighter future; 6,000 families now enjoy 6 more hours of light daily to study, work and socialise; average customer savings of $86USD/year (4.2% of their income) can now be spent on education, clean water, and other health products; we have abated over 540T CO2.
By the end of 2020, we aim to be in India's 50 largest cities, and to grow until every urban slum has access to our micro-loans and life-changing products. By that time, a network of over 1000 sustainable Pollinator businesses will have collectively impacted over 4.5 million people.
Full Impact Potential: What are the main spread strategies moving forward?
To impact over 4.5million people by 2020 with sustainable growth, we must both spread geographically and expand our product offering. Expanding into 6 more cities by 2016 will prove our adaptability in new regions which will form the foundation for a franchised solution growing into India’s 50 cities, and possibly adopted world-wide.
We will also continue to trial new products in established cities, as is currently being performed in Bangalore, which will only be rolled out across other regions once deemed a successful and appropriate product.
Sustainability Plan: What is this solution's plan to ensure financial sustainability?
Within one year of starting, each new city that we launch is financially sustainable with product sales covering local business costs. We are now focussed on improving cash handling processes and lifting sale rates so as to break-even in each city within 2-3 years. We then hope to adopt a franchise approach with this proven business performance to achieve future expansion, lowering set-up costs and improving our chance at success in new regions.
Funding: How is your project financial supported?
Friends and family, Individuals, Foundations, NGOs, Businesses, Customers.
Marketplace: Who else is addressing this problem and how does the proposed solution differ from these approaches?
We have pieced together successful approaches by those tackling energy poverty, micro-entrepreneurship and essential services distribution. We are mentored by many of these organisations.
In ‘access to energy’ we have learnt from the distribution success of Grameen Shakti, Solar Aid and Barefoot power, and built on this by using mobile phone apps to improve customer management.
We have then gone one step further by adapting Kopernik and Hindustan Unilever’s last-mile multi-product retail approach to the urban slum environment, making further use of our successful distribution channel.
Founding Story: Share a story about the “Aha!” moment that led you to get started and/or to see the potential for this to succeed.
In 2012, India experienced the largest blackout the world has ever seen. Over 700 million people – 10% of the world’s population – were plunged into darkness. The story grabbed headlines, but the daily reality did not: that there are 400 million people in India living in a permanent blackout with no access to electricity.
Having just spent several months in Bangalore's peripheral slum communities witnessing this hardship first-hand, this phenomenal event triggered our team to found Pollinate Energy, in order to solve this crippling energy poverty.
Team: What roles does your team consist of (i.e. full-time vs. part-time staff, volunteers, board members, etc) and how do you plan to expand the team as the project grows?
We have a combined 30 yrs experience in entrepreneurship, sustainability, renewable energy, economics, microfinance, and development. We structure our managerial roles as operations, strategy, technology, fundraising and programs/impact. We are currently recruiting Indian sales and operations managers to support our expansion.
Our advisory board has complementary skills in marketing, fundraising, legal, strategy, Indian markets and governance.