Social problems, corporate solutions – Shell Foundation way

Amrita Nair Ghaswalla Mumbai | Updated on January 24, 2018

There are many development issues that are common in emerging economies, as are many of the solutions delivered by inclusive businesses.

Creating business models for replication has helped address many social issues. At Shell Foundation, replicating models at an industry level has helped tackle issues as diverse as energy access, sustainable mobility and job creation.

Husk Power Systems (HPS), which provides power to remote villages in Bihar by converting discarded rice husk into electricity, is looking to design, install and operate small scale power plants for people in East Africa. Husk Power Systems has been a Shell Foundation partner since 2008, and has over 75 operational plants in Bihar.

Pradeep Pursnani, Deputy Director, Shell Foundation, avers that there are many development issues that are common in emerging economies, as are many of the solutions delivered by inclusive businesses.

“Rather than reinvent the wheel, we ensure cross-border transfer of established and innovative business models, especially to the underserved,” he said.

Replicating success

Early last year, HPS joined the ranks of GE for ‘Powering Africa Programme’, a $7-billion initiative launched by US President Barack Obama. The company will aim to complete the installation of 200 decentralised biomass-based mini power plants in Tanzania, and provide affordable lighting for around 60,000 households.

Touted as one of the largest microgrid developers, HPS is targeting 5 million customers within five years in India and East Africa. The firm is also experimenting with a solar biomass hybrid power plant.

Another example is that of Envirofit India, a clean cookstove manufacturer, established in 2008 as a subsidiary of Envirofit International.

Envirofit cookstoves are designed on the basis of natural draft technology that reduce smoke and toxic emissions up to 80 per cent, fuel consumption up to 60 per cent, and cooking time up to 50 per cent.

“Husk Power is going to Africa, specifically to Tanzania and Uganda. We started our journey with Envirofit in 2007, and now they are all over Africa. Their learnings from India were very relevant,” said Pursnani, adding that developing supply chain solutions often take several years and require considerable investment.

For example, it took Envirofit three years to transition from a business to consumer firm (B2C) to a predominantly business to business firm (B2B) in order to achieve economies of scale and build brand credibility.

Shell Foundation has been working with several entrepreneurs in India to identify the underlying market failures behind intractable problems.

Published on June 15, 2015

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