A Mighty Way to Light Up Rural India

MightyLight, a product created by Cosmos Ignite Innovations, is reaching 15,000 children, thanks to an effort by eBay.  Since children are unable to study at night without a light source, the MightyLight is a way to improve education, among other issues.  eBay employee Anna Sidana and her nonprofit One Million Lights were key drivers in this gift.  MightyLight, according to an IndiaWest article, has many benefits.  The product is:

a solar-powered LED light that is eco-friendly, robust and built specifically for rugged conditions. It can withstand falls on hard surfaces and water or dust without being damaged. The Mighty Light produces ~500 lumens of clean white light versus ~10 lumens of light from a kerosene lamp. Other benefits of the solar light extend to health and the environment with no harmful carbon emissions.

Cosmos Ignite Innovations itself is an interesting venture, as it is a partnership between Cosmos Energy in India and Ignite Innovations in the US.  With millions of people in rural India still using kerosene, the potential for scaling up the environmentally safe and affordable light is substantial.

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Aiming for 100 Million

Many people dream, but some people dream big.  Dr. Ashok Khosla is one of those that dream big – but also puts the dream into action.  As founder of Development Alternatives, Khosla plans to bring wide-scale employment to India’s rural areas.  IndiaWest reports:

“Poor people are seeing more products, but have little access to them. The poor do not have purchasing power,” said Khosla, the 2002 winner of the United Nations’ Sasakawa Environmental Prize, and the Schwab Foundation’s outstanding social entrepreneur award in 2004.

The Technology and Action for Rural Advancement (TARA), a partner of Development Alternatives, is a social enterprise focusing on standardizing “technology packages, which offer training, technical support, financing and marketing assistance to small enterprises.”  TARA’s products range from paper to textiles to cyber-kiosks.  Khosla aims to create 100 million jobs by 2018 through these micro-factories – no easy feat, considering that the organization claims to have created 3 million jobs in the last 15 years.

More importantly, the initiatives are created in a way that the villagers benefit above all.

In a typical model, the village will form a cooperative to purchase the equipment needed for the project, and determine wages for the workers, typically slightly above the area’s minimum wage. Development Alternatives’ social enterprise arm, Technology and Action for Rural Advancement, markets the products created by the villagers.

Tracking TARA’s progress in the next decade will be interesting and may provide further evidence of the impact of social enterprises and employment generating activities.