Solar energy startups out to power rural India with cost-effective and less toxic solutions

Numerous solar energy startups are delivering cheap and accessible power to rural India. These ventures have come up with solutions – ranging from solar off-grids to solar-powered home systems – that are not just cost-effective but also less toxic than traditional fuels like kerosene.

“In a country, where large swathes of population have little or unreliable access to basic power, off grids is the solution,” said Shyam Patra, 36, founder of Naturetech Infrastructure. The four-year-old, Lucknow-based startup provides electricity to more than 25 villages across Uttar Pradesh and Bihar by offering power directly to homes and micro and small enterprises.

“UP alone has 20 million rural households that have no access to electricity. Even if we choose to work only here, we will not be able cover more than 10% of the market,” said Patra, who was formerly with infrastructure companies Lanco and GMR.

Naturetech’s off-grid is installed underground, with cables attached to households. Customers pay through a tamper-proof prepaid meter. Consumers pay up to 150 a month for 24-hour electricity, almost half of what they spend on kerosene and diesel.

“The aim is to provide the last mile connectivity,” Patra said, adding that he expects to install at 10 more off-grids by the end of the year and earn revenue of Rs 10 lakh by the end of the current fiscal.

Solar has for long been viewed as the energy source with the most potential to offer low-cost power, with policy support and plummeting prices of solar panels used to store power boosting entrepreneurial activity in the sector.


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