Over 100 million homes in the poorest villages of India are currently without electricity. Villagers like these might be in the path of airplanes coming in for landing overhead, but in their thatched roofed dwellings they still fire up kerosene lamps at night so their kids can do their homework after dark.
But kerosene lamps emit toxic fumes and climate-changing greenhouse gases. If they need more light at night, they burn wooden tapirs. It’s medieval technology.
So Kumaar Thakkar; an Indian inventor and electronics entrepreneur came up with a solar powered fluorescent lamp to solve the problem: Aishwarya®. Problem solved, right? Not quite. In the hard knocks school of starting a business, he found that that wasn’t enough. Video over the jump:
At $34, the solar lamp was too expensive for his target market. It was a hard sell, unless it had an additional use to justify the expense. Only the richest villagers could afford these solar lamps; those who worked in construction or on the railways.
The villagers couldn’t justify the $2 a month it took to pay off the $34 investment. So the electronics entrepreneur added a recharging socket for cell phones.
Before, these villagers had to walk to the neighboring village to make a phone call; which might be an hours walk. Now the solar lamp also has a tiny plug point at the base and charges up the family mobile phone, as well.
Thakkar’s company; NEST has now produced and distributed 65,000 of these solar lamps-cum-cellphone rechargers in 5 years and won an Ashden award for not only developing the concept, but finding ways to produce it cheaply and well; finding a way to make it work financially for these villagers and finding a financing mechanism, so that the very poorest could pay it off slowly at $2 a month.
All they have to do is leave the solar panel on their roof through the day, and they have light at night. Some enterprising villagers have also plugged in tiny mini TVs.
Source: Ashden Awards
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