MERA GAO POWER: LIGHTING RURAL INDIA
Manohar pulls the kerosene lamp closer to his text book, rubbing his eye as he struggles to complete the Math homework. His struggle is not with the complexity of the problem; that he handles with ease. The dim light of the kerosene lamp makes it difficult to study and the fumes from the lamp irritates his eyes and throat. If only… there was electricity in his house. He could study longer and secure better marks requisite for admission in the city college.
Ramjilal is the petty shop owner. Working after sunset is impossible for him. If only there was electricity, he could work longer and earn more money.
Sunita struggles to make chappatis (flat bread) in the dark as her children sit huddled around the kerosene lamp.
These aren’t isolated cases. There are thousands of young boys, girls, men and women in the villages of India who have the acumen to do better; desire and grit to work harder to make a better future for themselves and their family but paucity of electricity hinders them. Their work comes to a halt with sunset.
As these villagers go about their daily chores, the evenings get quieter. Nothing much has changed here for years. With every sunset, over a hundred million people or roughly 60% of the people of Uttar Pradesh are engulfed in darkness. A kerosene wick lamp is the only source of light for the entire night. The villagers have embraced darkness as a way of life. Resigned to their fate of darkness and penury; dreaming of a brighter and happier future but with little hope of ever accomplishing.
In 2011, a transformation took place. Mera Gao Power (MGP) stepped in to build, own, and operate solar powered micro grids in Uttar Pradesh. Mr. Sandeep Pandey, CEO of MGP explains the process. “Our village-level lighting facilities generate electricity through centrally located solar panels, the generated electricity in turn is stored into batteries which is then distributed to power LED lights and mobile phone chargers in customer households.”
MGP offers its customers 20% lower cost and higher quality lighting than kerosene— the primary source of night-time lighting for India’s off-grid households. MGP has brought services to over 20,000 households in more than 1,200 villages. It provides off-grid services to a typical village for less than $1,000, making its lowest cost design the first commercially viable micro grid targeted at the rural poor. Its aim is to reach to 40,000 households by 2015.
As a result of the quality indoor lighting by MGP, the families now enjoy additional benefits such as lesser expenditure and money saved on kerosene expenses; children are able to study in the evenings; parents are able to work and earn more income, and house air is cleaner. Other than this, it also has tremendous environmental benefits:
The micro grids are renewable powered and replace dirty kerosene in customer householdsReduced kerosene consumption reduces carbon emissionsRemoving kerosene from the household creates a safer environment for children who accidentally drink it.
The company currently provides employment to 60 full time employees and 20 contract staff. The proposed investment will add the following jobs: 50 permanent, 2,000 man days for construction and 20 construction people for 6 months.
ICCO Investment recognized the innovative value of MGP and supported it by facilitating investments. “As a local solution with the potential to scale up, MGP will get techno managerial support from ICCO to reach another 10,000 homes through the installations of more than 500 micro-grids,” informs Arvind Agarwal, Regional Investment Manager, ICCO South and Central Asia. The investment has helped MGP increase its number of employees to 50 permanent and 20 construction people. It has also helped MGP expand itself by identifying more services such as mobile phone credit sales; tablet (media player) rentals; correspondence banking and solar home system sales / leasing and value added irrigation etc. have been identified and will be rolled out in stages.
MGP is thrilled to have ICCO as an investor. Nikhil Jaisinghani, Co-founder, MGP says: “ICCO has a long term commitment to our organization and the people we serve. Their responsiveness to the needs of the company has provided valued guidance to the founders as they navigate the finance sector in the fund raising process. During board meetings, ICCO's representative ensures that the company continues to make decisions which play to its strengths. We look forward to further leveraging our relationship with ICCO for greater future success.”
Needless to say, Sitapur is now lit by inquisitive young minds that put in an hour or two of studies before retiring for the night.