Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Does the support from the Selco Incubation Centre assist enterprises in providing access to energy? – Time to look back

-- Nilanjan Ghose

Is the support of the Selco Incubation Centre actually helping enterprises with their business in providing access to energy? Would the new enterprises ventured out even without the support from Selco Incubation Centre? Is it necessary to have a “hands -on” operational incubation support? Should the incubation support be limited to the development of business plans? What can be done to support clean energy enterprises even better? These are just some of the questions asked during the detailed impact assessment study by the Indo-German Energy Programme-Renewable Energy Component” (IGEN-RE) programme of GIZ which has provided financial support for setting up and operating the Incubation Centre for the last 20 months (August 2012- February 2014). Since then, the Embassy of Switzerland and Deon Foundation are supporting the operations of the incubation centre.

Has the engagement with Selco Incubation assisted the clean energy entrepreneurs?

According to Mr. Rustam Sengupta, Founder of Boond Engineering & Development Pvt. Ltd, a last mile clean energy enterprise, Selco’s services have been beneficial. “The engagement with the Selco Incubation Centre has supported us in focusing on quality control of our products, assisted us in organizing banker’s awareness camps. The close interactions with the bankers have helped us in developing linkages for end user financing” says Mr. Sengupta. He adds that “last but not the least, it has assisted to raise capital from market without compromising on our core business model”.

“Yes, I would still have moved into the area of providing clean energy products and services even without the support of Incubation Centre. Actually, I started my operation before I came to know about the Selco Incubation Centre” points out Dr. Susmita Bhattacharjee, Managing Director / Founder, Pushan Renewable Energy Pvt. Ltd. “However” she continues, “the support from the Incubation Centre has allowed me a smoother transition in understanding of the technology and has also assisted me to have a better knowledge of the existing ecosystem.”


Pic 1 : On the job training in progress for the Selco Incubates


How can the incubation centre assist the clean energy entrepreneurs better?

Despite the largely positive feedback of entrepreneurs, Selco Incubation is searching for ways to customize and improve their programme. “Access to working capital is one of the key challenges which Mangaal is grappling with”, says Mr. Soraisam Devakishor Singh, Founder, Mangaal Sustainable Solutions Private Limited. “I have a ready market but have to slow down due to lack of working capital. Access to some initial working capital to support the firm’s growth is essential until the firm raises the first round of capital. The combination of access to working capital along with operational training would be of great help to us”.


Pic 2: Incubates with the Selco Incubation professionals

Eastern Envo Protect (EEP), a Guwahati based enterprise, is providing clean energy based home lighting systems to villages which are located within the flood plains of the Brahmaputra, one of the main rivers in eastern India, is in need of support for product innovation. “There is an opportunity to design the solar home lighting systems in a manner which can be easily removed/ dismantled from their present location in case of emergency. The flexibility of dismantling the system under stressful situation may be a unique and a key feature for the product” says Fazle Illahi, co-founder of Eastern Envo Protects.

Based on the discussions with different incubates, we feel that there are potentials for innovations to serve end users better. GIZ plans to focus on the product and process innovations necessary to encourage entrepreneurs to customize their products and services for rural consumers for different geographical regions.


About Selco Incubation Centre

The Solar Electric Light Company (SELCO) through its Incubation Centre is promoting the access to energy by supporting clean energy enterprises. The objective of the Incubation Centre is to provide technical support to start-up enterprises selling clean energy products and services in rural area. The incubation centre strives to strengthen both, internal capacities of the enterprises and assists in developing the external market ecosystem to support the enterprise.

Apart from assisting in developing the technical capacity of the enterprises to design solar home lighting systems, the Incubation centre also helps in training and capacity building of the selected rural technicians in the operation and maintenance of the system and in addressing the after sales services. In order to facilitate an enabling ecosystem, the centre is also organizing awareness creation camps for the rural bank officials within the project area of the entrepreneurs.

Assessing the needs of the entrepreneurs, the Incubation centre has developed three training curriculums for incubates and rural technicians both in English & Hindi (regional language).