While the entire section of rural area in the country was struggling to find light with non affordable and exorbitant use of kerosene, one man and his dream proved otherwise. Hailing from Guntur, Ranganayakulu Bodavala, began a movement of his own. Thrive Solar Energy, which first started out as an NGO Thrive, transformed into one of its kind technology companies in India and the world. Thrive Solar makes the most affordable, low cost LED lights that run purely on solar energy. The company now has presence in other continents like Asia and Africa. Ranga’s dream is path breaking, lighting up various parts of rural India, Africa and Latin America.
The idea of low cost LED lights is a striking upheaval. The plan was chalked out with a simple motive – to provide basic light so that a child in a village sans electricity can study, a working rural mother can cook and weave in a better illumination instead of a candle or kerosene lamp. The seeds of this noble cause have been firmly planted and are now growing leaps and bounds, changing the lives of many.
The execution was equally magnanimous – “Our team reached out to over 20 Lakh families in the rural areas with our solar lights. Every year, we provide close to 2 million LED lights” says Ranga. Thrive has constantly reached out to various State and Central governments, explaining the need for launching large scale projects that impact at least 5 to 10 million households. The path was not easy, given the numbers being looked at.
After working for over sixteen years as a consultant in different public health systems of the World Bank, Ranga was aware of the exact specs. Thrive worked extensively with JICA funded projects at places like Uzbekistan, Malawi and UNICEF in Afghanistan. But there was a bigger horizon to be covered and achieved on the home ground.
The reality specs for a ‘better lit’ rural India
The dynamics are straight and self-explanatory. In a typical village in India, each family spends about INR 100 every month for over 5 litres of both subsidized and black market kerosene. With efficient solar panels, bright lights LEDs and innovative engineering, this option can be easily replaced with safe and non-polluting solar light that is 10 times brighter! Each portable light costs INR 150, coming with a guarantee of one year and a simple battery change every 3 to 4 years.
Ranga points out the wider access and solution to the thriving problem in the villages of Uttar Pradesh and Manipur. “If each household is given two to four of these personal lights free or on cash transfer to all the 7.5 crore families, it will save the nation a kerosene subsidy burden of over INR 37,000 crore”. There is also more to kerosene other than causing pollution. The operating kerosene mafias all over, abusing the livelihood and mooching off the resources from the poor.
Significant impact on the quality of life
The livelihood of most rural people in the country goes by daily income. With poor lighting and not many options, people have begun to compromise. Thrive sets its foot at the exact place. Their lights are not only affordable, but are usable for years, running on solar power. This cuts off any other investment to be made on lighting. Women from the weaver communities have seen great benefit with LED lights. The difference of making a cloth in a poor candle to that of a brightly lit space makes for a difference of sky and earth for these families.
Lights for better academic performance in villages
Thrive Solar’s movement has significantly improved the academic performance of the children, who would now get to study better under an LED lamp. These simple achievements sum up the totality of the organization that now supplies a major chunk within the country and outside. What started out small now operates in nearly 15 countries. Thrive Solar now has presence in India, Srilanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Afghanistan, Combodia, Burma, Nepal and Africa.
|One Child, One Light Thrive Solar’s trust, One Child One Light, effectively utilizes CSR funds coming from the corporates to enable a child to study with solar study light. The reach for this cause is promising. The solar company now looks at increased participation from the middle income groups towards the cause.
|Thrive’s contribution to the Vizag CycloneThe recent disastrous cyclone in Vizag ripped away resources and morale of the people alike. Thrive Solar jumped into action, and supplied nearly 22,000 lights during the crisis.
|Reaching out via leaders and philanthropistsThrive Solar’s cause had reached out to many leaders and philanthropists, who are now actively funding and enabling the supply of lights to the rural parts of India
How LED manufacturing works
The entire process of manufacturing LED lights is efficiently engineered, streamlined and well managed at the Cherlapally plant in ECIL, located in Hyderabad. The company has about 3000 employees who work from the ground up, executing the making of the products in phases. Starting with assembling of parts to the final output, the entire operation is qualitatively executed by a great team of highly motivated workforce. The work brings in larger employment scope to the section of society. Since 2007, over two million lights have been made and supplied. The spirit to provide more lights is strong and ongoing.
Simple vision for a brighter India
Infrastructure at Thrive is state of art, cut to the production needs. Ranga’s long run vision, however is something else – facilitate one thousand assembly centres, each in every district of India. This includes both plastic moulding and panel production. These assembly centres can be run by micro-enterprises, creating widespread rural employment of over 10 lakh direct and indirect workers. “If that happens, Thrive will only supply the sophisticated chip that will ensure an accurate 93 percent efficiency” he says.
Greater picture at the agricultural sector
The plan of projection is also crystal clear for the agricultural space. “We are trying to explain multi -fold benefits to both the people and the government alike. The money saved with the use of LED lights from kerosene can be used to uplift the lives of farmers. We can provide close to 2 crore solar pumps that will in turn save as much as 50,000 Mega Watts of electricity and raise the agricultural output by 15 percent. Needless to say, this will improve the income for the farmers substantially”. The visionary also adds “Solar irrigation for a second crop will control food – price fluctuations, benefitting the entire country”
With many initiatives and plans way forward, Thrive Solar continues to set a perfect example in the field of innovation. Invention for the benefit of mankind, perfectly explained.