She taps solar power in village homes
Even to this day, many remote villages in undivided Dakshina Kannada have not seen or heard of load-shedding.
It was possible through a woman who has been silently lighting the houses of several remote villages in undivided Dakshina Kannada, Gujarath, Vietnam and Sri Lanka through her products developed at Anand Electronics through SELCO Solar Pvt Ltd. It all began in the year 1996, when SELCO Solar Pvt Ltd Founder Dr Harish Hande interacted with Hemalatha Rao and Harish Shetty which lead to the setting up of the firm. The duo had already established their reputations in repairing radio and television sets across the remote far flung regions of South Kanara. The interaction with Hande gave an opportunity to the duo to set up a partnership firm which produces solar home lighting systems.
Speaking to City Herald, Hemalatha Rao said owing to the family problems, she had to learn something to earn for the family and children. When contacted, consultants advised her to learn repairing of inverter. Accordingly, she enrolled herself for the one month women entrepreneurship training offered by the government. Later, she underwent training in TV repair at Keonics which gave her a practical exposure to the repairing of TV and radio sets.
The interaction with Dr Hande further gave a boost and helped to enter into the arena of solar energy. The first solar lighting was installed in a remote village in the house of one Aravind Rai. The response was tremendous as a large number of people had gathered to have a glimpse of solar lightings, which was something unknown to this part of the region.
The company which began with two employees (Hemalatha Rao and Harish Shetty) with an investment of Rs 1.8 lakh to repair the solar charge controllers and solar luminaries now has more than 20 employees involved in the design, assembling and testing of the products and the demand has increased by many folds.
“By the end of 1996, we were able to offer four products—a charge regulator (10Amp), three types of DC operated compact fluorescent lights (5W, 7W and 11 W),” she recalls. In fact, by 1999, the company had established 10 products including garden lights, street lights, light attached to head gear, table light, two types of charge regulators and timer circuits for garden and street lights and DC fan. “We never compromised with the quality, so as to win the hearts of the customers.”
She says: “Though we faced challenges with lighting points in some villages, the lights were placed directly beside and sometimes on the top of the chulhas. We had to design the reflectors and the Compact Flourescent Light (CFL) ballast to ensure high temperature. Later, we started experimenting with the Light Emitting Diode (LED) technology in the year 2002.”
“In 2006, we had received a grant of Rs 1.5 lakh to work on the original technology on LED technology proposed to the Bharatiya Vikas Trust which was managing the grant for Swedish International Development Agency,” she added
“With LED technologies, we could reduce the power requirement by five to 10 orders without compromising the quality of illumination, in turn reducing the system cost by 20 to 30 per cent. In fact, with LED, even the low and marginal income households could go for environment-friendly technology. We were the pioneers in the developing solar operated DC fan and solar operated sewing machine, Rao added.
In the year 2000, through Sri Kshethra Dharmasthala Rural Development Programmes (SKDRDP), about 5,000 houses received solar lightings in the remote villages of undivided Dakshina Kannada.
Rao also creates awareness on solar energy through service camps in villages along with creating an awareness among school children in villages.
Rao won ‘Woman Entrepreneur Award’ which included a sum of Rs 1 lakh in 1992 from the Karnataka government for her role in establishing two firms namely Anand cables and Anand enterprises. She was one of the 10 finalists selected among 100 entrepreneurs by the Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India (EDI) towards the Bharati entrepreneur of the year award in 2005.