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Every home in India can hope for light

The Social Entrepreneurship and Consulting Cell of SIBM has lit up 200 homes in Nande village by harnessing solar power through an innovative technique. Kailashyar Uday Kumar who had pioneered the idea talks to Proyashi Barua.

education Updated: May 28, 2013 19:01 IST
Proyashi Barua

The first thing that strikes you when you enter a village house with a thatched roof is the sheer paucity of sunlight even during the day. This coupled with the fact that electricity has not reached most parts of rural India makes life in villages very tough and challenging.

“I realised this two years back while I was a final year MBA student at Symbiosis Institute of Business Management (SIBM). I along with a few students who were part of SIBM’s Social Entrepreneurship and Consulting Cell (SECC) were helping Aadarsh, a self-help group in Nande village, to launch Aadarsha Mirchi Powder. I realised that because there are no proper lights people in villages cannot even work effectively leave alone pursue any entrepreneurial activity,” says Kailashyar Udaykumar, who is now working in Bangalore as a management consultant with iCreate.

He continues, “In my capacity as a member of the SECC I wanted to change this. I was brainstorming for a solution when I chanced to see a video of a solar light bulb which was created using PET bottles in the Philippines. The base of the PET bottle was inserted into a hole that was drilled onto a rooftop in a manner whereby almost 70% of the bottle was inside the house while the remaining 30% was exposed to sunlight. I along with 11 other members of the SECC started thinking about the possibilities of implementing this system in India.” The project was christened Ashadeep that means ray of hope.

Talking about a few challenges in the initial stage, Udaykumar says, “For the PET bottle solar light bulb to function effectively we had to insulate it from moisture. For this to happen we had to ensure that all the rooftops (where we were placing this solar bulb) were free from leakage. But this was not an easy task as Nande like all other parts of Maharashtra received more than average rainfall from June to September.” Udaykumar soon realised that this prototype of the Philippines model (of a solar bulb) had to be improvised on. “These solar bulbs were effective only during the day. I wanted to create something that would work at night as well,” he says.

After carrying out extensive market research across rural pockets in and around Pune, Kailashyar and his team members created a device that specifically addresses the needs of the Indian rural ecosystem.

The actual product materialised within a very short span of time.

Explaining the way the device functions, he says, “The bottle-light unit has three main parts - a beverage pet bottle, a solar panel and an in-house control board comprising a switch and a rechargeable battery.

The pet bottle is filled with distilled water and a chemical along with industrial light emitting diodes. This is connected to the control board, which is charged by the solar panel. During the day, the solar panel converts the natural light into electrical energy and stores it in the rechargeable battery. During the day, the sunlight that shines through the water, illuminates the dark corners within the house. When the switch is turned on at night or during a power cut, the stored electricity in the battery is supplied to the industry grade light emitting diode in the bottle which illuminates the house.”

‘I helped to discipline his restless energy’

Mentoring is all about channelising energy and focus on one specific goal. “And this was exactly my role as far as Kailashyar Uday Kumar is concerned,” says Vinod Shastri, deputy director of SIBM and faculty-in-charge of its Social Entrepreneurship and Consulting Cell (SECC).

“The best part about Kailashyar was his enthusiasm. Essentially a positive person with a ‘can do’ attitude he would never be deterred by challenges. He has an innate gift for ‘thinking out-of- the-box.’ But like many other youngsters of his age he was extremely restless and would shift from one idea to another. So I had to keep him grounded and focussed especially during the pilot stages of the project,” remembers Shastri.

“In order to be a social entrepreneur you need to have empathy for people around you. It is not enough to have ideas and business acumen. Kailashyar could relate to almost everybody.

He used to go to Nande all by his own to talk to the villagers and understand their challenges. He did not know the local language but because of his friendly and easy going nature he was welcomed by the villagers. Also, he was a terrific team player.”

To be a social entrepreneur you need to have empathy for people. It is not just enough to have ideas and business acumen
— Vinod Shastri, deputy director, SIBM and faculty incharge SECC

Five facts at your fingertips

1. About SIBM SIBM Pune was established in 1978 by S B Majumdar.The flagship brand of Symbiosis, SIBM introduced the concept of internships/summer training to Pune. In 1990, SIBM received permanent affiliation from Pune University. It is the only b-school to have ever received this affiliation

2. Influencer “The SECC taught us to address three broad imperatives — economic self-sustenance, social good and environmental protection. So while working in this project, we did not just focus on solar power. We also focussed on social empowerement and strived to create a sustainable model,” says Kailashyar

3. Programmes MBA is the flagship programme of SIBM. SIBM Pune also runs a unique weekend programme (of one year duration) called the post graduate diploma in innovation & corporate entrepreneurship (PGDICE). SIBM is affiliated to Symbiosis International University which is accredited (with ‘A’ grade) by NAAC

4. Pune Queen of the Deccan, Oxford of the East and cultural capital of Maharashtra, Pune is one of India’s well known centres of art, craft, culture and theatre. It has one of India’s oldest universities. Once a bastion of the Maratha empire, Pune is marked by magnificent forts, which are testimony to its glorious past

5. Admissions The residential MBA programme of two-year duration is the flagship programme of SIBM. It offers specialisations in finance, human resources, marketing and operations. For admission details please refer to the website www.sibm.edu/admissions/MBAResidential.html