I was watching the award giving function to the winners of CNBC-TV18 ‘Emerging India Awards 2007‘ initiated by ICICI Bank and CNBC TV18. I was amazed to learn that the winners were selected from about 1,25,378 SMEs that made entry. KV Kamath, managing director & CEO of ICICI Bank too hoped the number of entries to reach 5 lakh next year that started with 5,000 in 2005.The winner SMEs had a maximum net worth of Rs 50 crore. The winners are:
IndoAsian Fusegear Limited (auto, ancillaries and engineering), Venus Remedies Limited (pharma & chemicals), Freshtrop Fruits Limited (FMCG, Food & Agri-Business), Kama Jewellery (gems & jewellery), Indus Fila (textiles & apparel), Value Labs (IT, communications and entertainment (ICE), ITES), Techpro Systems Limited (Infrastructure), Diana Hotels Limited (travel & tourism), Today’s Writing Products (retail trade). Speck Systems Limited (non retail), Mother’s Pride Education Persona Private Limited, and S Jhaveri & Co.
And one can see such enthusiastic entrepreneurs in all part of the country. Each story is unique and exciting. The story of SELCO is of one such entrepreneur. Harish Hande 37, an IIT Kharagpur alumnus founded SELCO, India 12 years ago. This solar energy company has recently won the prestigious ‘Green Oscar’ for the second time. And a report in this Sunday Times of India tells how the company is transforming the lives of ordinary people making an auto driver an entrepreneur:
The solar panel installed above R Vijaya Kumar’s small house on the outskirts of Bangalore made the difference. Every day at 4 pm, Vijay Kumar drives to the Bomanahalli market on the outskirts of Bangalore with 50 batteries that he hires out to street vendors for Rs 15 per battery per night. He returns at 11 pm to take them back, having made thrice what he could earn as an auto driver. It gets Kumar enough money to repay the loan he took to buy the SELCO’s solar panels with which he recharges the batteries everyday.’ In Gujarat, SELCO has helped midwives to deliver children with the aid of a solar lighting kits, and in Karnataka, SELCO has given rose-pickers outside Bangalore solar-powered headlamps so that they can work in the pre-dawn darkness with their hands free. This customized design has made the difference. But Harish went step further and convinced banks to come out with a product for the poor. Initially, it was still difficult to convince the poor to shell out anywhere between Rs 18,000 and Rs 20,000 for a standard 40-watt solar light system that can light several 7-watt bulbs and charge batteries which can be used after dark. For daily wagers, that’s a stiff financial commitment. It is possible through micro finance. Initially most banks were reluctant to lend money to those who earned less than Rs 100 pm. Harish suggested the innovative financing. ”While some found repaying Rs 300 a month difficult, they found it easy to put away Rs 10 a day.” The answer lay in ensuring a collection mechanism that would work on a daily rather than monthly basis.
Kearala’s Biotech and Karnataka’s SKG Sangha also won the ‘Green Oscar’ awards. Biotech won it for developing and installing biogas plants in Kerala that use food waste to generate gas for cooking. SKG Sangha has bagged the second prize for improving the lives of rural communities in the state by supplying them with both dung-based biogas plants for cooking and a specially-designed unit that turns the slurry from the biogas plant into high quality fertiliser.Why can’t the states such as Bihar and Orissa emulate it?
And what has it meant. The vendors give up their polluting lamps for a cleaner and cheaper energy alternative. A few extra hours of work after sundown, less fumes from lamps and more study time for kids – it’s all these things that make a difference to people hampered by electricity outages and the reliance on a few expensive litres of kerosene. Many entrepreneurs can take some lessons from the stories above. And this can be the only way to win the race with China that many think we should not even dream because of our democratic system and corrupt politicians and bureaucrats.