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Finance & Innovation

Young entrepreneurs are changing the game in India's slums

Katerina Kimmorely is the co-founder and director of Pollinate Energy. Based in Bangalore, the company sets up networks of micro-entrepreneurs to distribute sustainable technology (like solar lights and clean cookstoves) on payment plans to India's urban poor.

Katerina Kimmorley pollinate energy.jpgImage: Pollinate Energy

In 2012, India experienced the largest blackout the world has ever seen. Over 700 million people, 10% of the world’s population, were plunged into darkness. The story grabbed headlines, but the daily reality did not: there are 400 million people in India with no access to electricity. Having just spent several months in Bangalore's peripheral slum communities witnessing this hardship firsthand, the blackout was the catalyst for Katerina, 27, and her team to found Pollinate Energy.

Pollinate Energy .jpgImage: Pollinate Energy

Pollinate Energy works with people who have migrated to the city for better income opportunities, but settle in urban slums and are trapped in a cycle of fuel poverty. Pollinate Energy engages them through a network of on-the-ground local entrepreneurs, called Pollinators, who receive full training, a start-up stock loan and a smart-phone with an app to manage their portfolio of customers. Pollinators go door-to-door offering sustainable energy products on short-term payment plans. Once customers save money and experience better quality of life they seek other products (like clean cookstoves and water filters), which the Pollinators also sell, ensuring long-term business viability.

Pollinate energy 2.jpgImage: Pollinate Energy

In the last 18 months Pollinate Energy has sold over 6,000 solar lights across more than 500 urban slums in Bangalore through a network of 16 Pollinators. This means kerosene, an unsafe and expensive fuel, has been removed from the homes of more than 31,000 people, over 15,000 children can study at night, 6,000 families now enjoy 6 more hours of light daily to study, work and socialise. Solar light customers have saved an average of $86USD/year which would have been spent on kerosene and can now be spent on education, clean water and other health products. Pollinate Energy is embarking on an exciting new phase, expanding both geographically and its product range to include menstrual cups, smoke reducing Chula’s and temporary housing made from recycled plastic bags.

Pollinate energy 3.jpgImage: Pollinate Energy


Find out how YOU can become a finalist for Unilever’s Young Entrepreneur Award this year at www.changemakers.com/globalgoals2015.

You can also go to TAKE ACTION NOW to call on entrepreneurs everywhere to embrace sustainability alongside Unilever.