Access to Sustainable Technology Through Microfinance

By Sue Adkins, International Director, Business in the Community

Access to Sustainable Technology Through Microfinance

Pollinate Energy improved the lives of India’s urban poor by providing access to sustainable technology through microfinance, using a network of local distributors, termed ‘Pollinators’.

Social impacts

  • Children were able to study at night and adults able to do household work later, saving the daylight hours for productive income-generating work.
  • Customers improved their health by having less smoke and pollution in their homes, and their safety by having access to a portable light source for travel at night.
  • Families reduced their dependence on kerosene, allowing them to start breaking the poverty cycle by saving and redirecting their spending.

Business impacts

  • Pollinate’s reputation allowed them to attract bright, engaged and motivated people into their professional development programmes.
  • The company’s understanding of, and strong connections with, the urban slum communities helped achieve business objectives and maintain reliable payback periods for each product.
  • Complementary new businesses targeting a similar market have been started as a result of Pollinate’s understanding of and connections with its customers.

300 million people in India live in energy poverty. Without electricity, they are dependent on wood fires and kerosene lamps. These cause indoor air pollution and respiratory illness, killing over 100,000 children each year.

Pollinate Energy provides people in urban slum communities with alternatives – sustainable technology products such as solar lights, smoke reducing stoves and water purification units – and provides microfinance loans to pay for them. After paying off a loan within a few weeks, customers own that product and are no longer tied to continually purchasing kerosene.

The company employs local micro-entrepreneurs – the Pollinators – and trains them in door-to-door sales, creating a sustainable and replicable micro-distribution network.

Pollinate Energy has now installed over 7,700 sustainable technology systems, reaching 35,600 people in 519 urban slum communities.

What Pollinate Energy India’s co-founder said: “Pollinate Energy’s project success is partly due to being technologically agnostic, allowing us to source the most affordable and supported sustainable technologies that we know, through customer surveys, will significantly enhance the health, wellbeing, lifespan and earning potential of India’s urban poor. The products currently include solar lights, smoke reducing cook stoves, and water purification units.

“We intend to replicate the success of our pilot ‘hive’ in Bangalore, where we trained 20 micro-entrepreneurs (Pollinators). By 2020 we will establish 50 more hives in Indian cities providing sustainable networks and life-changing technologies to over 4.5 million people, preventing thousands of childhood deaths from indoor air pollution and yielding a collective saving of AUD200 million.” – Katerina Kimmorley, Co-Founder, Pollinate Energy India

Editor’s Note: This blog was previously published on Business in The Community and is reproduced with permission.

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