Magsaysay for India's solar lighting pioneer

CIOL Bureau
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publive-imageBANGALORE, INDIA: Kantamma is a vegetable vendor in Karnataka’s silk town, Ramanagaram, just 50 kilometers away from the glittering lights of India’s silicon city. Till recently, she used to pack up her business as dusk falls. Not any longer. Thanks to an innovative social innovator, Kantamma carries on her business during the peak buying hours till 8 pm.


How? She basks in the glory of a solar lantern, rented from a local NGO, at a nominal daily cost of Rs. 10 (22 US cents) which has helped to increase the business hours by 180 minutes. The extra volume of business generates more than compensates for the nominal rent.

Also read: Harish Hande: Tapping the Sun

The lantern for the program comes from Dr. H. Harish Hande’s Solar Electric Light Company (Selco) India, a social enterprise founded by him in 1995 to electrify rural India using innovative solar power technologies. Dr. Hande was a member of the jury for Technology Review India’s Grand Challenges 2010 program to pick innovative technology solutions relevant to India.

In the last few years, the program has caught on with the involvement of civil society groups and philanthropic organizations, and micro finance institutions in the states of Karnataka, Gujarat and Kerala. Selco, founded as a social enterprise, works with these groups to provide innovative lighting solutions in rural areas. More than 125,000 households in these states have benefited from the Selco program so far.

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