26 February 2009

Appropriate Financing ~ The SELCO Experience

Great to read in the FT about A bright idea that helped India's poor by Amy Kazmin writing from Bangalore, India. The story is about the tremendous work by SELCO founder Harish Hande and team in deploying solar electric lighting systems starting in Karnataka -- and their trials and tribulations in sustaining this social-mission for-profit venture in the face of daunting obstacles. I've written before about Harish and SELCO, but the tail-end of this FT article spotlights a hugely important part of the process that must be extra-emphasized -- Appropriate Financing...
"Dealing with India's rural poor is traditionally the preserve of government or non-profit charities -- or rapacious money-lenders ready to step in with emergency loans at extortionate interest rates. But after two years of research in rural villages in India and Sri Lanka, Mr Hande was convinced the poor would pay for solar lights, in spite of their hefty cost, if they could obtain affordable loans with repayment schedules that reflected their cash flow. "If you create appropriate financing and appropriate products, the people will pay," he says. Much of Mr Hande's energy has gone into persuading rural loan officers in state banks to provide credit to families to buy solar lights. But he remains awed by villagers' willingness to spend the equivalent of a full year's income on his product. "Think how much time we take to make a decision to spend a whole year's salary," he says. "But the poor are willing to pay."
Harish and colleagues continue to both extend their reach and bring new sustainable energy solutions to their customers!

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