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Six Australians Open A Startup In India That Employs People From Slums

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founders pollinate energy
L-R: Monique Alfrif, Alexi Seller, Jamie Chivers, Ben Merven, Emma Colenbrander and Katarina Kammorley

pollinate_energy

Humans are the biggest slaves of routines. It takes a lot of courage and determination to break the routine wheel to achieve something out of your comfort zone. Well, six young Australians had that courage when they decided to quit their jobs and move to India to embark on their startup journey.

While most Indian entrepreneurs are re-inventing the wheel again and again, six young entrepreneurs from Australia came to India to solve problem of urban poor and local slums in tier-1 cities.

Emma Colenbrander, Monique Alfrif, Ben Merven, Katarina Kammorley, Jamie Chivers, and Alexi Seller quit their day jobs in Australia and moved to India to start Pollinate Energy, a startup aiming to provide cost-effective lighting to Indian slums, while at the same time remaining economically sustainable as a business.

Pollinate Energy started on the outskirts of Bangalore back in late 2012. By mid 2015 the startup have had expanded into two new cities. Beyond 2015, the startup has ambitions to be in every tier-1 city in India, reaching millions.


L-R: Monique Alfrif, Alexi Seller, Jamie Chivers,  Ben Merven, Emma Colenbrander and Katarina Kammorley

L-R: Monique Alfrif, Alexi Seller, Jamie Chivers, Ben Merven, Emma Colenbrander and Katarina Kammorley

The partners started with $50,000 in debt and still worked for free in the first year of their venture in order to get the startup going.

The idea for Pollinate Energy came to their minds when three of the founders Monique, Kat and Jamie saw the need for sustainable light sources in an Indian slum in the outskirts of Bangalore where the kids couldn’t do their homework because they didn’t have access to light at night. Soon they realised the energy poverty prevalent in India and how there were a lot of very neglected transient slum communities, that didn’t have access to basic services like electricity.

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This is when Monique who was at that time working with a non-government organisation (NGO) delivering solar technology across south-east Asia decided to work on the idea for the startup. People just kept joining one after another. Soon she met Jamie, an energy economist, professionally and was introduced to his partner, Kat, who had a prior experience of working in the energy sector previously.

Lighting in slums is often provided by kerosene lamps which are dangerous and expensive to run. Pollinate Energy sells solar lights to slum communities without power. They also have a wide range of products available, including a lamp which can double up as mobile telephones charger. The products are sold door-to-door in the slums by salespeople the company calls ‘pollinators’.

he company provides power-less communities in India with sustainable lighting

he company provides power-less communities in India with sustainable lighting

The products cost anywhere between nine dollars and $45, which, some might argue is a little expensive for the families living in the slums, considering they are able to earn an average of just ten dollars per week.

But, according to the startup, in the long-term it will save them money, because the kerosene which they currently use in their current lamps costs around three dollars per week.

Each lamp comes with a two-year warrantee.

Headquartered in Bangalore, they also have an office in Melbourne. They are currently operating in three Indian cities and have made it to the finals of a funding competition held Chivas Regal’s global search. The competition aims to support the most promising social entrepreneurs in the world whose aim is to succeed in business, while at same time have a positive impact on the lives of others.

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