Nira Devi

Nira Devi

Nira Devi is a government school teacher and well-known among her fellow villagers. She is responsible for the income of her entire family since her husband does not work. When you enter her house, you can see existing solar panels connected to a large lead-acid battery and four lamps. Unfortunately most of the equipment does not work any more.
Many reasons come together for Nira to become a Local Energy Supplier. The poor energy conditions in the village, her outdated equipment, and the caretaking of her 4 daughters, son and grandchildren. With the bulbs from the Energy Kit, she has working light in her house again. At the same time she can rent out the 12 portable lamps that come along with the kit to generate extra income, which is much needed to finance the expenditures in food, health and education for her large family.

Due to her status as teacher, she attracts a lot of attention in the village. When it was known she was installing a new energy product, the villagers were curious and came to her place to have a look. They really need a lighting solution and thus all here available lamps were rented out immediately on the first day only.  To keep track of her busy business, she started maintaining an accounting ledger, and wrote numbers on the lamps to make it clear to whom it is rented, and who paid what. Some customers even paid in advance to make sure they have a secure lighting solution in the night for the coming weeks.
This story not only signifies the poor energy status in the Nebhi, but also shows the potential of the Energy Kit in these remote areas with no grid availability. On top of that, entrepreneurial villagers can earn an extra income that serves the community like Nira does. Other villagers feel inspired to do the same as Nira and she is receiving a lot of questions on how to become a Local Energy Supplier as well.

Ram Kumar Aggarwal

Ram Kumar Aggarwal

Mr. Aggarwal owns a General Store right opposite to the shrine and is extremely entrepreneurial. He likes introducing new facilities to the village and boasts to be the first person to bring fridge and mango juice machine to the village. He became a Local Energy Supplier (LES) in order to initiate a local solution to the lack of energy access in the village and help people gain access to basic lighting solution which is cleaner and safer than kerosene and earn from the services that he provides. According to Mr. Aggarwal, “The kit gives space for earning along with providing fellow villagers with lamps that help them in cooking food in proper light. Children now study more and will someday make our future better.”
 
The huge footfall at his shop makes it easier for him to rent out lamps as more people get to know about them through the marketing collaterals displayed. Recently, there have been multiple queries about the kit from within the village as well as the nearby villages and villagers have come forward with aspirations to be energy suppliers in their respective regions.
 
He lives in a joint family along with his younger brothers and together they run the shop. Shop is the only source of income for the family. The additional income that comes from the services of Rural Spark kit is saved and used for buying fresh stock and supplies of the items sold at his shop. He aspires to grow his business of renting out lamps even further and be able to serve not just his own village but the surrounding ones too.

Pinku

Pinku

Pinku had her kit installed around December 2013, just two months after her husband’s death, in order to add a source of income to the family after suddenly losing the main earning member of the family. She has three children – the elder boy who lives in Gaya (still not big enough to earn) and two girls. They really look forward to the education of their children and this is why even after the struggle they face, they have sent their son to Gaya where he lives in a rented house so that he gets a good atmosphere to study. Pinku agrees that it is very difficult for her to manage his expenses but this is what she really wants – “babu should study there” (my dear son should study there). Main source of income is selling vegetables grown on the small piece of land they own but the earning through the renting of lamps also provide great help in ensuring meeting basic ends in the family. The family is happy with the rental model, as it offers good service. Else, how would they be able to catch Rina and Rita to get products replaced so quickly.

They mainly harvest corn. Within the family, the husband passed away, which led to a decrease of income. Being able to obtain clean energy and to sell energy made it possible to generate a steady income. Presently, they have 1 kit with 12 lamps. They are able to rent all of them right now. However, they always change their number of lamps, as per the demand. In festive seasons, and in seasons when grid power is really bad – they call Rina and tell her to increase the number of lamps. In season the customers increase from 12 to 18 and sometimes to 20. 

Aruna and Gunjari

Aruna and Gunjari

Aruna and Gunjari live opposite to each other in the village, making their story very interesting.

Aruna and her husband both work together looking after their cattle. They sell milk, and livestock rearing is the main source of income. Her husband is well connected in the village and has a lot of networking with the local police station (some of the lamps are also rented to the local police station). Aruna owns 3 kits and approximately 30 lamps. Gunjari is from a  comparatively economically weaker family.

Gunjari and her husband are daily wage labourers working on fields. She has 1 kit installed at her place.

As the two families live opposite to each other, there could have been a chance of conflict between the two because of probable poaching of customers. However, when the second kit was installed – Rita, Aruna and Gunjari sat together and agreed to the common understanding that no one would give lamps to each other’s customers. There is a good understanding among them now – no conflicts have ever been reported. A perfect case study of how two very close households can also co-exist in this business without poaching on each other’s customers and can still manage to make money. Also, they maintain the same pricing. Aruna, being economically stable, thinks she may buy more kits in future. However, decisions being always taken by husbands in the family, she says that she will have to confirm with her husband.

Akhtari

Akhtari

Akhtari has four daughters, a big responsibility as they have to get them married. (It is to be noted that these daughters are not allowed to work and earn as the family might be considered a typical conservative family). The husband is the only earning member of the family as he used to work as a truck driver. However, he is too old for that now. He now became more of a religious leader in the community and also teaches Urdu and Arabic language to children in madrasas. The family does not have a good income and is to some extent also dependent on the income generated through the renting out of lamps as Local Energy Suppliers. The family has around 10 customers at present and his customer base fluctuates from 8-14 according the season and demand.

For the family, the caste system is prevalent in the village and as a resultant. In their village the harijans (Shudras, the lowest caste) faces discrimination. The harijans are the poorest of the population and do not have access to grid power. Muslims do not believe in caste and therefore, Akhtari's house is always open for Shudras to take lamps on rent and therefore gain access to light.

Maya

Maya

Maya's husband, like many others, does not have a very reliable and good income source. Moreover, the family is really big with 5 kids already. The 6th kid is awaited as Maya is pregnant. She has 1 kit installed with around 10 lamps. She maintains a very well documented record of all transactions between her and customers and also between her her and Rita. Maya is Hindu, living in a Muslim dominated area who are financially stronger than her family is. Still, she as an entrepreneur has been able to build healthy relationships with all muslims families as most of her customers are muslims. Here, a perfect case study of how sharing of energy has helped bridge the gap between people of different communities is seen.