Recently we announced our new partnership with the social enterprise Orora Global. We were introduced to their founder and director Savitha just a few months ago, and it was clear to us from the first meeting that we had been given a fantastic opportunity to build something lasting for the My Name is Kumar community.
Savitha is a fantastic person, driven to creating positive impact through her enterprise in many ways – be that through creating renewable energy solutions, providing for rural communities living in poverty or empowering women within that community with knowledge and expertise.
For the last few months we have been working on a plan with Savitha, and another organisation called VACA, to build a brand new and sustainable community for the families of the children at My name is Kumar. It’s the largest project we’ve undertaken involving the community so far, we’re bubbling with excitement and anticipation. It’s become especially important for us since the flooding caused by monsoon during November and December destroyed the Londor community.
We begin building in the new year and our plan is build 55 new homes and a community centre for Londor. Before we can begin to do this we’ll be fundraising between the 3 organisations to raise $40,000 to pay for the project.
To introduce the project to you we sat down with Savitha and asked her a few question about Orora Global and her plans for our work together. Here’s what she said…
MNIK: Hello Savitha! Can we start with you sharing a bit about yourself and how you came to set up Orora Global?
Savitha:.I’m an electrical engineer by profession and before joining Babson College, I worked in the telecom industry for more than a decade. During my free time, I trained to become an ultra-marathoner and fund-raised to support several developmental efforts in rural south India including organic farming, relief and rehabilitation of bonded laborers, education and women empowerment. It was the combination of my profession and my hobbies which drove me to explore the idea of building a social business with renewable energy.
MNIK: And what exactly do you want to achieve through the work of Orora Global?
Savitha: According to UNDP, one in five people do not have access to modern electricity. In India alone, 400 million people do not have access to electricity, leave alone the 800 million people who have access to electricity only for 4 to 6 hours a day. The problem is truly because of two reasons:
a. Lack of cost effective solutions that are affordable by end users that make 3$ or 5$ a day.
b. Second is the lack of a good distribution model that touches all these rural communities
Orora Global is the company that is closing this gap. We are the solution with a mission to eliminate the crisis of energy poverty in developing countries. We focus on breaking down all barriers of access to provide affordable and reliable clean tech solutions to rural and semi-urban communities in emerging markets.
MNIK: What kinds of communities do Orora Global work with?
Orora Global, Inc serves two segments of the market: rural market and semi-urban market.
Typically, the rural communities lack access to electricity and earn about $100 USD a month. They use old fashioned firewood and kerosene lamps, which often results in fires that burn down their homes. On the other hand, there is an unreliable access to electricity living in semi-urban areas, even though they can earn up to four times more than rural communities.
Both segments of the market use kerosene, diesel and sometimes they even steal electricity for power – if they buy power it can cost them a 1/10th of their monthly salary. What they spend in twelve months on firewood and kerosene could be used to invest in a low cost solar-powered product, which will last them up to 10 years – so you can see that solar power is both a safer and more sustainable solution for these families!
MNIK: And has Orora Global seen success stories so far?
One of our customers Prakash was able to reduce his electricity bill from 6$ a month to 0.5$ a month after installing Orora’s Home S-system!
MNIK: Can you explain to us what the local people you train learn to do when they start working with you?
In our first session, we do a soft skills training program for the local entrepreneur’s (particularly women) that helps them gain confidence and become leaders within their communities. The module will incorporate tenets of soft skills, such as negotiations and decision making, and enable women to act entrepreneurially. We also teach them about renewable energy, solar power, how to use, sell and troubleshoot Orora products.
MNIK: Why is it important for you to work with women especially?
As an electrical engineer from India, I have gotten so used to seeing so few women in the space of technology, renewable energy and leadership roles as a whole. I want to be able to change in whatever way, particularly in rural communities.
It’s safe to assume that rural women stand to be the principal beneficiaries of improved technologies, in particular of renewable energy technologies. Labor-saving devices are clearly a priority for rural women, given the inordinate amount of time and energy that they expend in necessary household drudgery.
Renewable energy is definitely an area where I believe women can learn improve on their living conditions.
MNIK: What are you excited most for about working with My Name is Kumar and the Londor community?
My Name is Kumar is very different organisation compared to our other project partners we have worked with. In order to help with local development of a Londor community in the best possible way, we need to look at benefitting the community in a number of days. I think our main focuses are:
Building sustainable homes for the children and their families
Making it possible for all the children in the community to go to school
Enabling men and women in the community to provide for their families and not have to beg
Empowering women in the community through teaching them valuable new skills
Providing basic amenities like water, electricity, food etc. and improving the safety of the community by decreasing dependency on kerosene
Tim and Renee from My Name is Kumar have a great vision for the growth of this community, who would otherwise be forced into begging. We need many more such efforts to be able to eradicate poverty in India and in other developing countries.
MNIK: Thank you Savitha! We’re really exciting to begin working with you and everyone else at Orora Global and VACA in 2016.