Gen Y Entrepreneurs Bet Big on Clean-Tech Innovations
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
BANGALORE: It is not everyday that a young consultant at McKinsey & Co, one of the world’s largest management consultancy firms, trades in a
job at the firm’s Seattle office for the rough and tumble of business in rural India. But that is just what John Howard did when he launched Duron Energy, a renewable energy companythat has just started sales of solar-powered plug and play devices for lighting and battery recharges in villages across Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh.
Elsewhere in rural Bihar, Gyanesh Pandey, chief executive officer and co-founder of Husk Power Systems, and his team of co-founders – that includes Charles Ransler, a class of 2009 alumnus of the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, and Manoj Sinha, also a Darden alumnus, who earlier led microprocessor design teams at Intel – are lighting up over 10,000 homes and small shops across three villages. Husk Power owns and operates miniature power plants generating between 35 kw and 100 kw of electricity from paddy husk that it supplies to consumers in off-grid villages.
The start-up is expected to raise a fresh round of venture capital this month to scale up operations to more than 60 villages and to set up 50 plants to generate electricity from the current level of 22 plants by May 2010. “We have an open-source model of operations and can very quickly replicate across multiple locations,” says Mr Pandey, an electrical engineer from IIT Varanasi, who envisages Husk Power Systems rolling out services akin to a cell phone company.
India is emerging as a laboratory for innovations in the alternative energy space with entrepreneurs and investors looking to build innovative solutions to address a power-starved economy. This is happening at a time when globally investments in clean tech are losing their luster. Investors are shying away, while entrepreneurs don’t seem so gung-ho anymore.