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The possibility of an alternative

Jayashree Narayanan Oct 14, 2015, DHNS 23:56 IST
He calls himself a “reluctant entrepreneur” but what made Rustam Sengupta quit his banking job in Singapore and come back to India was the thought of investing in something that the country has always been rich in – solar power. With this idea, he went ahead to set up Boond Engineering, a Delhi-based start-up in 2010. “The power supply in Delhi is 24x7 but that is not the case with other towns and cities, especially the rural areas. What we then decided to do is to bring solar power run devices to households, schools and multiple villages,” says founder and CEO Sengupta.

Then by 2011, this social enterprise started to design solar power centers. It now caters to villages in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana, among other northern states. Some of its products include solar light systems, solar light bulbs, biomass gas stoves, solar AC inverter systems and solar water pumps.

On his recent visit to the first India-US ‘Startup Konnect’ in the Silicon Valley, San Jose, California, Sengupta represented Boond out of the 36 start-ups. He felt “privileged to share the stage with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi”. He says, “The PM’s message of “Start-up India, Stand up India” was loud and clear as we presented our pitches, our posters, flyers and case studies as part of the exhibition that the PMO walked through.”

Hosted by Nasscom in partnership with The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE) and the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad's (IIM-A) Centre for Innovation, Incubation and Entrepreneurship (CIIE), the day-long event on the sidelines of Modi's visit to the Silicon Valley highlighted the need including for new socially-helpful technologies and renewable sources of energy.

Sengupta mentions, “India consumes less than foreign countries but most energy, around 80 percent is generated through coal with environment effluents. So it becomes mandatory to look for alternative sources of renewable energy.” He adds, “Earlier the usage of sun’s energy was less than a percentage but now with the PM’s mandate, the use of solar has become a good alternative source of energy. In the next 10-20 years, the growth will only rise to make us self-reliant on energy production, encourage growth of industries and contribute positively towards the environment.” He goes on to add, “Capital expenditure is very intensive but the Delhi Government looks very interested and should take the lead. If Bangalore is an IT hub, Delhi has the potential to become a solar hub.”

In collaboration with NGO Read India, Boond has set up solar centres in various schools catering to diversified fields including agricultural training and distance learning and literacy centres. Owned and managed by community libraries and resource centres called Read Centres including in parts of Manipur, Rajasthan, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) centres have become self-sustained. Nahid Jubair, manager, community partnership, Read India tells Metrolife, “We had the infrastructure but due to shortage of electricity, the community could not make the best use of it. But now with solar power in the ICT centres, the people are happy. The centre is like a glowing bulb at the middle of the night.”

Deepak Rawat installed a 25 KWs solar panel from Boond at his hosiery industry in Faridabad. He says, “I installed the device, almost a month back. The 25 KWs power of the solar panels gives 130-135 units which is enough to run the set-up.”

He adds, “The initial investment cost me 17.5 lakhs but one cannot count everything in profit and loss. It is much better an alternative for not just the long-term growth of the company but the environment.”

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