India: d.light and Christian Aid launch solar lighting project

According to the two parties, who are working with three local partner organizations, the Indian states of Jharkhand, Orissa and Chhattisgarh have the worst rural electrification track record in the country. The majority of people living there are said to be socially excluded communities, comprised mainly of minority ethnic and caste groups known as Adivasi and Dalits respectively. On average, they have a family income of less than 200 rupees (around USD$10) per month, meaning they are normally unable to afford d.light’s solar lighting, which in India retails at 549 or 1,699 rupees.

However, as part of the program, Christian Aid has provided funding for 2,500 lanterns. It will additionally collaborate with its Indian partners to help young people in the states become ‘rural entrepreneurs’. Their roles will involve managing distribution and financing alongside a network of women’s self help groups. As such, the entrepreneurs will receive technological and financial training. d.light is also expected to supply the lanterns and train the rural entrepreneurs in customer education, battery replacement, and sales and demand generation

Under the micro financing scheme, the self help groups will collect orders from villagers and supply the solar lanterns on credit, charged at 12 per cent annual interest over 10 months. The interest is expected to cover the administrative costs of the scheme and allow money to be reinvested in new stock, which will be purchased directly from d.light. The goal is to make the project self sustaining.

Sam Goldman, CEO of d.light, commented: "We are excited to partner with Christian Aid in India on this innovative distribution mondel. Utilizing microfinance and rural entrepreneurs will enable us to serve hard-to-reach poor families in rural India. With our shared expertise and commitment to excellent service, I am confident that we can make a significant positive impact to the lives of thousands of households."