Pathbreakers: Harish Hande, MD of Solar Electric Light Company (SELCO)
Friday, March 2, 2012
Unable to ignore the poorest of the poor who live in abject darkness, Harish Hande decided to put his Master’s in solar power to good use. Today, the 44-year-old MD of Solar Electric Light Company or SELCO, retains the same inclusive elan while reminiscing how his company continues to light up lives at the bottom of the pyramid.
The lure of social enterprise
After a trip to the Dominican Republic in 1991 while doing his Master’s in the US, Harish Hande realised he wanted to do something in the socioeconomic space. His professor at the University of Massachusetts told him to study rural electrification in the Dominican Republic, where he came across households using solar power paying small amounts of money. In 1993, upon returning to India and doing field work in Karnataka and Sri Lanka, Hande realised that affordability could be defined in many ways beyond Excel sheets. He registeredSELCO in 1995.
Hande still feels that despite the fact that there are 40,000 banks in India, people don’t take advantage of them. He wanted to create good aftersales and access to third-party financing to make solar power affordable. A 4-light solar system in 1994 cost Rs 15,000 and the only way to make it affordable was if banks financed it.