Change-Agent Profile: Shedding Light on Poverty

Change-Agent: Harsh Hande; Company: Selco 

From Deutsche Welle (Germany’s international broadcaster): 

   57 percent of the population in India has no electric light, and many would be unable to afford regular electricity even if it were available. But Harish Hande is working to improve the situation. He set up a company called Selco in Bangalore, which now supplies some 80,000 people with solar power. He’s helped improve life for many in Karnataka and Kerala, making it possible for children to study for school by lamplight and allowing small independent businesses to keep working even after nightfall. His project has been very successful – and it’s environmentally-friendly, too.

Two lines from this video struck me especially:

“Harsh Hande established his company over a decade ago.  At the time, he was in his mid-twenties, and didn’t have much money himself. ‘If I could go back to that time, I would still say I should start with 30 dollars, primarily because when you have less amount of money, you try to innovate a lot, and innovate in terms of financial models…and because your back is to the wall, and basically survival is the issue…and survival brings innovations…’” 

This brings up an interesting point about the nature of social innovation.  Is it necessary to have a substantial seed fund in order to launch a social venture, or is it enough to be impassioned about a social issue, and be willing to find creative outlets to translate passion into reality?  From Harsh Hande’s perspective, the latter is the more difficult, yet potentially more productive route, as survival instincts breed innovation, and humble social entrepreneurs to see the world from the perspective of their communities. 

More after the jump.  Continue reading