Harish Hande is opening pathways to make clean energy affordable throughout rural India. His unique approach of selling, servicing, and financing clean energy products for poor communities has upheaved assumptions around their ability of the rural poor to use and maintain technology.
Harish’s company, Solar Electric Light Company (SELCO) runs 38 offices out of Karnataka, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Bihar, and Tamil Nadu, providing solar and clean energy products for underserved communities.Through innovative financial products, families with an average income of less than Rs 3,000 a month are able to afford SELCO’s services. Historically, such families did not qualify for rural banks’ financial schemes which were geared towards agriculture. However, with SELCO acting as a guarantor to banks, to provide affordable loans to rural families and simultaneously showing how electrification can dramatically increase the economic productivity of these families, Harish has opened a whole new market for banks and increased access to finance. Using this model, Harish has been able provide clean energy to 135,000 households across rural India.
As an open source company with a public purpose, Harish understands that he must incubate new entrepreneurs to scale sustainable energy interventions, reach their client goals, and satisfy investors. Within SELCO, Harish has invited local entrepreneurs interested in sustainable living to join the company. Incorporating entrepreneurs into strong local management has allowed SELCO to scale and has elevated previously untapped populations such as non-english speakers. Today, SELCO employs 224 people within all of its operations, and the highest level managers are internally selected after years of work in the organization, a testament to the sustainability of the organization.
At the next level, Harish initiated the SELCO Incubation Centre to foster new ideas to address clean energy, sustainable living, and innovation for the poor. Through its identification and business development program, the Incubation Centre is empowering the next generation of sustainable energy entrepreneurs. Alumni include organisations such as Onergy and Boondh which are advancing interventions in sustainable energy in their own ways.
Today, Harish serves as the Chairman of the Board at SELCO. He is now focusing on supporting the SELCO foundation which operates rural labs across India, a first step towards fostering an ecosystem where technology, finance, entrepreneurship and policy intersect. Harish envisages these labs transforming the problem-solving capacity of communities to address the unique local needs within their ecosystem.
Note: This was updated in March, 2014. Read on for the ELECTION profile