All posts by Rohan

short story writer

Good News CentralSolar


Jowar (sorghum) is a staple food crop in Karnataka, and jowar roti is eaten almost every day in households across the region. Sumangala Patil and her husband Erayya are home-based entrepreneurs from Dharwad, Karnataka who supply jowar rotis to neighboring homes and shops.

Rotis are traditionally hand-rolled, but the Patils had invested in a roti-rolling machine by means of a loan, which helped them boost production. Unfortunately, it was powered by traditional electricity, which left them at the mercy of frequent power cuts, throwing a wrench in their productivity.

When she attended a market-oriented livelihood training program in the village, Sumangala was introduced to solar-powered roti rolling machines, which were independent of the unreliable traditional electric network and therefore more reliable. Now, with the help of the solar-powered roti roller, her productivity has increased from 150 to 450 rotis a day! Sometimes, in case of bulk orders during special occasions, she can even provide up to 1000 rotis a day!


Yum 🙂 Image courtesy Jopreet’s Kitchen


Oh and check this out to know the health benefits of jowar. Did you know jowar is high in protein, helps with weight loss, and is also gluten-free? Yep; the good people of Karnataka were eating clean before it was even a Thing.


Good News CentralSolar

Sun and Sewing

Image via The Better India

Attention all needle-wielding warriors!

Ever wished you could sew faster? Well, maybe you should consider investing in a solar powered sewing machine like Mr. Ramsingh Kabadi from Badachatrang, Orissa. He’s been a tailor since 2012 and he’s often had trouble keeping up with the huge demand. He didn’t want to switch to a motorized sewing machine because of erratic power supply. But guess what doesn’t keep turning on and off like feeble traditional electricity? The Sun!

Customers complain if you don’t get the work done on time and Ramsingh Kabadi could stand it no longer. Luckily, he got a loan from a local bank. It was a small amount, all he needed was Rs. 19,000 to harness the power of the Sun and the results were astounding – He started sewing almost thrice as much as he used to, which put a big smile on his customers’ faces.

Previously he could only work during the day because frequent power cuts meant he was sewing in the dark (please do not try this at home), but the solar powered sewing machine allowed him to work in the evenings as well. Let’s not forget that the quality of his work has also skyrocketed. His monthly income has increased by Rs. 2500.

“Earlier I was sewing one blouse per hour. Now I can do one blouse in 35 minutes.” – Ramsingh Kabadi

Ramsingh Kabadi’s change in fortunes is all thanks to SELCO India, a rural sustainable energy company that aims to improve the quality of life for rural Indians. Ramsingh Kabadi was initially scared of approaching a bank, he felt intimidated by the entire process, but SELCO encouraged him to give the bank a shot and it changed his life for the better. But now he comes to the bank all by himself every month to repay his loan bit by bit. And that too before the monthly due date!

He’s also requested the bank to give his brother a loan, for another solar powered sewing machine! Don’t you just love a solar powered family business?


Real TalkSolar

Not one, not two, not three, but SIX female-led start-ups have received seed funding of $10,000 each!

The lucky winners are Cellerite Systems, Loans4SME, HoneyComb Inventions, Kumudini Enterprises, Upcycler’s Lab and Taru Naturals.

This is a joint initiative between UK-based Shell Foundation, the UK government’s Department for International Development, and Government of India’s Department for Science and Technology. It is managed by Zone Start-ups India, whose POWERED Accelerator initiative focuses on women-led businesses in the energy value chain.

Their solutions address issues across mobility, energy access, energy finance, sustainability awareness, healthcare and food security.

“POWERED Accelerator is a first-of-its-kind women entrepreneurship programme focused on energy-linked businesses. The number of women entrepreneurs is not very high and there are fewer in the energy business. We received 130 applications to the programme, which exceeded our expectations by far. We are super impressed with the cohort’s overall participation in the 6-week programme and will continue to engage with them for a year during which we will see that they utilise the seed money effectively, help them get customers and the next round of institutional funding,” Ajay Ramasubramaniam, Director, Zone Startups India, told BusinessLine.

“Cellerite Systems is developing an Electric Vehicle charger that focuses on reducing the charging time of the vehicle; Loans4SME is an alternative lending platform that connects energy businesses with debt providers. While HoneyComb Inventions aims at enhancing the duration of power backup supplies of healthcare facilities, Kumudini Enterprises provides energy services and devices in rural communities with special focus on tribal groups. Upcycler’s Lab makes sustainability-based learning tools for children and Taru Naturals is a network that connects farmer communities with clean technology and renewable energy.” – Hindustan Times

Real Talk

Lead The Way, Bhutan

The Kingdom of Bhutan is the Kingdom of Green. While most countries are struggling to reduce their carbon emissions, Bhutan is carbon negative, which means that it absorbs more greenhouse gases from the atmosphere than it emits- according to reports, nearly three times. In fact, it is the only carbon negative country in the world.



Image via Bookmundi

Its low population (about 750,000) and the fact that it’s mostly undeveloped gives the country a big advantage. Most of Bhutan’s population works in agriculture or forestry, so it’s definitely not your typical industrialized country.

While most countries don’t enjoy Bhutan’s advantages, it could also be said that most countries are simply not trying hard enough. For instance, Bhutan is the only country in the world that talks about the environment in its constitution. Bhutan’s constitution states that at least 60% of the country’s total landmass must be covered by forests. The country’s priorities are different, definite, and importantly, enshrined in law, which means that unsustainable development or environmental damage aren’t just ethically wrong, they’re literally illegal. Not a bad tactic, and one that requires gumption. In a world that fetishizes development, Bhutan is (literally) a breath of fresh air.

India has a tougher challenge than most countries because not only does it have an insanely high population (in excess of 1 billion), but also, its development is uneven, a devastating combination of mid-to-high unsustainability and rural underdevelopment. If more of us consciously make efforts to go green, if more of us at least make going green a priority, then at least we’ll increase the odds of successfully tackling global warming.

Gross National Happiness > Gross Domestic Product

While most countries worry about their GDP (Gross Domestic Product), Bhutan measures progress through GNH (Gross National Happiness). The four pillars of GNH are good governance, sustainable development, conservation of natural environment, and the preservation and promotion of cultural values. Bhutan understands that a healthy environment plays a huge role in making people happy. To improve their GNH, Bhutan took the remarkable step of banning the sale and production of cigarettes in 2010.

It’s common knowledge that smoking is bad for health, but it’s also bad for the environment. The manufacturing process itself generates huge amounts of harmful chemical pesticides – which are highly toxic to plants and animals and can seep into waterways and poison the soil for years.

Banning cigarettes in India is probably a long shot, although it might not be such a bad idea given that over half a million children between the ages of 10 to 14 smoke cigarettes every day (to say nothing of the adults). And anti-smoking ads, realistic and painful though they are, just… don’t work. We as a country should focus a little more on Gross National Happiness and make the environment a vital part of that measure. Perhaps it’s time we recognized the difference between ‘standard of living’ and ‘quality of life’.

So yes, Bhutan might have a couple of advantages, but it’s important to realize that they’re leveraging them better by simply holding themselves to different standards than the rest of the world.

Lighting Up Billions

India’s rapidly growing population and economy are creating a huge demand for electricity, prompting the government to subsidize solar power projects in a bid to encourage corporations to invest $90 billion over five years. In a country blessed with an abundance of sunshine, the only sensible option is to implement solar power. The good news is that India’s total installed solar capacity has gone from about 3 GW in 2014 to about 25 GW in 2018. But there’s still a long way to go.

Solar Energy #Goals 

The International Solar Alliance (ISA) aims to create 1,000 GW of solar power capacity by 2030, and intends to raise $1 trillion for this endeavor. The ISA is working to promote the use of solar pumps in farms, replacing diesel ones, promote the use of mini-grids, and procure financing for member countries to meet their solar energy goals. India’s own goal is to raise solar power capacity to 100 GW by 2022.

With the US withdrawing from the Paris Agreement, there is a seat open at the head table of climate leadership and India is very well poised to take that seat. With the ISA being here, if the ISA will prove itself to be a game changer in the way energy markets evolve, in giving more people access to energy… then India emerges as a leader of climate action.[1]
-Kanika Chawla, Renewable Energy Expert at Delhi-based nonprofit Council on Energy.

India is also leading the way when it comes to solar parks. Half of the world’s 10 largest solar parks currently under construction are in India. China may have the largest- the Tengger Desert Solar Park produces approximately 1,547 MW- but India looks poised to race ahead in early 2019 upon the completion of the 2,225 MW facility at Bhadla, Rajasthan.

Hurdles Ahead 

The shift to 100% solar won’t be an easy one, especially with the government imposing a 25% tariff to protect domestic manufacturers. But with good reason:  90% of India’s solar panels are currently from China or Malaysia. Hardly a circumstance promoting the ‘Make In India’ initiative.

But the main issue that domestic players face is manufacturing and technology. Some of the components required to build solar panels are not even manufactured by Indian solar panel makers.

Even the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy has stated that the domestic sector is not being fully utilized due to obsolete technology. They’ve also stated that the “price of solar equipment produced in the country is not competitive as compared to that of foreign manufacturers, especially Chinese manufacturers.”[2]

A Bright Future

It’s not all doom and gloom. Solar energy has already had a positive impact, especially in rural communities where electricity has long been a luxury rather than a staple.

We must reduce our dependency on coal- and natural gas-based power. These lead to deadly emissions like carbon dioxide (the great villain in the climate change saga), sulfur dioxide, nitrous dioxide and particulate matter (all air pollutants that cause respiratory problems).

Solar energy will not only clean up the environment, but also our lungs!