Over the last decade, technology has shaped how we live and conduct our businesses. From train tickets to lipsticks, we have access all kinds of services and transactions from our phone. Ola, Uber, Airbnb and other such innovative ideas have created a shared economy that has given us tremendous conveniences in urban areas. India, however, is largely an agrarian economy. About 230 million rural Indians still don’t have access to electricity. Many rural areas that have been electrified do not have access to uninterrupted, consistent, good quality power for more than a couple of hours. Thus, farm practices have remained largely stagnant.
While the government is making efforts to provide electricity to rural households, there is also an impetus to provide micro-grid solutions. However, simply providing a few hours of low-quality power to households will not change their lives significantly. There is an opportunity to provide community-based solutions for sharing this precious resource of clean energy and replicating some advantages of a shared economy that we have experienced in urban areas. Larger off-grid systems offering more power can be directly connected to community centres in order to power machinery and equipment, such as shredders, driers, and flour mills, that can be shared as paid services for villagers.
Village-level entrepreneurs could run these centres and also bring in low-power kitchen appliances, water purifiers, refrigeration and other such services based on local needs. Revenue-generating businesses such as these would make it easier to pay back higher up-front costs of installing clean energy systems. The impact of technology must reach rural India. Solar power is a great solution for energy access in our country. We must harness it to improve the lives of people.
Paula Mariwala is founder and co-president, Stanford Angels and Entrepreneurs India