BANGALORE, India—An Australian company headquartered in Bangalore, Pollinate Energy, uses a micro-finance strategy to sell solar panels to India’s poorest people, specifically those in Indian slums.
The slum population in India is expected to surge to 104 million people by 2017. This will amount to a projected nine percent of the total 1.28 billion population. The rising population creates concerns for the availability of electricity in these sprawling slums.
Pollinate Energy is known as a “social business.” These companies aim to find a business solution to a social problem. The company drew inspiration from Nobel Peace Price winner Muhummad Yunus, a social entrepreneur who worked with the world’s poor.
Using a micro-finance strategy, the company first identifies local salespeople in Indian slums who sell products on commission. Pollinate Energy calls these entrepreneurs “Pollinators.”
Pollinate Energy not only sells solar lights, but they have also begun to sell mobile phones and water filters. Customers then go onto payment plans and have five weeks to pay for the product. The default rate on these loans is only one percent.
In a slum on the edge of Bangalore, 1,000 residents, 90 percent of the village, have switched from using to kerosene to using clean energy. The solar panels placed on rooftops power the light inside homes.
These panels provide both a health benefit and a higher quality of light. Residents in the Indian slums also save $100 a year because they do not have to purchase kerosene.
Laxshmi, a resident of the slum, says, “We’re very happy to have the solar lights now because we can work inside the house and the children can study inside.”
Pollinate Energy has reached 60,000 people since its founding in 2012, and it has plans to operate in 20 Indian cities by 2020.
The company also gained some publicity as one of the 27 finalists in the global competition, The Venture, which rewards new companies that use business to create positive change.
To learn more about Pollinate Energy, please visit their website: www.pollinateenergy.org
– Alexis Pierce