ONergy: ONergizing rural India through clean energy access

India, IndiaKolkata, India
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
Project Stage:
$1 million - $5 million
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

ONergy is a leading energy access social enterprise providing decentralized solar energy solutions to rural households and institutions. ONergy has developed a complete range of innovative solar solutions which it promotes through a strong last mile distribution, financing and service network.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if we can provide a range of innovative solar solutions that solves numerous social and developmental challenges?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Despite numerous efforts, over 600 million people in India lack access to energy. ONergy operates in East India which is the most backward region, lacking basic infrastructure and accounts for 35% of BOP population. Poor quality and inappropriate products, failure of energy projects and lack of service network in rural areas have built a trust deficit with customers leading to unsustainability.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

ONergy provides an innovative approach to address challenges of energy access. (1) Technology Innovation: Apart from solar lighting, ONergy has developed unique products such as solar computers (for digital access), solar irrigation pumps & micro cold storage (for agriculture), solar microgrids (for livelihoods) with pre-paid and remote monitoring. (2) Business Innovation: Operating through a network of Renewable Energy Centres (RECs) thereby developing a complete ecosystem. A network of trained rural entrepreneurs and NGO/MFI partners are able to reach remote areas and provide prompt after sales service. (3) Financing Innovation: ONergy has developed innovative financing models to make its solutions affordable and within reach to the poor.


WWF Climate Solver Award, United Nations SEED Award, Telegraph Infocom Award, TiEger Award, Innovations Against Poverty Award from Sweden and many more
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

We set up a Renewable Energy Centre (REC) in a rural area and operate through a hub and spoke model. Through the REC, we partner with rural banks & MFI to access financing for solar projects, train SHG women, NGOs in the marketing of solar solutions, identify and train individuals in advanced solar technical servicing. Through RECs and partnerships in rural areas, we are able to full range of innovative solar solutions with quality customer experiences that can empower and improve the socio-economic condition of local communities. ONergy's solutions makes a difference by solving social problems across livelihoods (solar microgrids, lighting), education (solar computers), agriculture (solar pumps) & health (cookstoves)

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Till date, ONergy has impacted 350,000 lives by promoting over 55,000 solar solutions through a network of 14 Renewable Energy Centres. IIX, Singapore conducted an independent impact assessment study on ONergy and awarded an “Impact Score of 12.5 of 15'' and SROI (Social Return on Investment) score of $7.80 of social return for every dollar spent. Qualitatively, ONergy has helped entrepreneurs and households increase their income generation by over $2 million USD, saved $900,000 in kerosene and fossil fuel costs, improved education, trained over 1500 rural entrepreneurs and technicians, and reduced CO2 emissions by 50,000 tons. ONergy has strong monitoring and governance as we have developed a mobile app for field force, customized sales force software, conduct surveys and also third party evaluations.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

We plan to impact 1 million lives by 2017 and subsequently 10 million lives by 2023. This would possible by increasing our product offerings, increasing our geographical coverage and increasing our penetration in the current area of operation. We plan to increase the number of RECs to 50 by 2017. ONergy has strong technology,grass root and financial partners. ONergy has grown in excess of 100% each year over the past 5 years where we have demonstrated scalability and sustainability. We plan to scale up our model and continue our growth rate.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

ONergy is currently breaking even and profitable. The money is generated through margins earned on products sale and projects executed. We also earn service revenues through installations and after sales service. We already have attracted investments and funding from Doen Foundation (Netherlands), Rianta Capital UK, Halloran Foundation USA, Swedish International Development Agency, CIIE, MNRE-UNDP.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

While some of the approach and solutions have been practiced and pioneered by other organisations like Selco, ONergy has innovated on its business model and technology mix which makes it unique. Our aim is to provide end-to-end energy solutions from solar lighting systems to solar micro grids to promoting other innovative energy solutions. There are a number of energy access social enterprises but they don’t offer a full range of solutions. ONergy has also been promoting new delivery models for promoting solar irrigation, computers and micro grids.

Founding Story

The founding team quit international jobs to first start an NGO, SwitchON, that was instrumental in spreading awareness about climate change and sustainable living. SwitchON reached out to over 60,000 people across India through its various campaigns. In 2008, we created a film on India’s energy security -‘Why New Coal’- to question India’s growth based on fossil fuels and to highlight sustainable alternatives. Through extensive travel, the gaps that existed in sustainable energy access became clear. In mid-2009, ONergy was registered as a for-profit enterprise. Since then, ONergy has grown rapidly to be one of the renowned and leading social enterprise in India.


ONergy’s current team strength constitutes of 90 members and is rapidly growing. The young and passionate founding members are well complimented by experienced professionals that make up the management team. As the organization grows, we intend to have a stronger middle level management that can effectively manage and grow the field level team of technicians and sales officers. Our management also gets the support of renowned advisors
Please confirm how you heard about the Unilever Awards:


Please confirm your role in the initiative (eg Founder/co-Founder) and your organisational title:


Which of the 8 UN Global Goals (Sustainable Development Goals) pre-selected for this competition does your solution relate most closely to? [select all that apply]

Affordable and Clean Energy, Climate Action.

Leadership and the Unilever Awards
Please provide examples of any previous entrepreneurial initiatives you have pioneered.

Prior to starting ONergy, I co-founded an NGO, SwitchON in 2008. SwitchON has developed into a renowned strong community based organisation promoting sustainable livelihoods through working in the area of trainings, education, agriculture and climate action. My other entrepreneurial initiatives include starting Kolkata Cycling Club and promoting a Farmer Producer Organisation.

Beyond your existing team, who else are you working with to achieve your objectives, eg partners, advisors, mentors?

We are ably supported by renowned partners, advisors and mentors. I have participated in business accelerator programs and received fellowships from Global Social Benefit Incubator (USA), Unreasonable institute (USA) and Yale University. They provide with active mentorship support. Our advisors include seasoned practitioners such as Harish Hande (co-founder of Selco and Magsaysay Award Winner), Ashis Sahu (CEO of Clean Energy Access Network), Naresh Joshi (retired banker and Ashden Award winner), Kapil Mondal (Ashoka Fellow) etc.. Our Investors include funds and foundations from USA, Switzerland, Netherlands and India renowned in the impact investment space which further help with with mentorship and connections.