When Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged to bring reliable power to all citizens during his 2014 campaign that propelled him into office, the same year the World Bank pegged India as home to the world’s largest un-electrified population. While the government has made progress, many families are still missing out, thus slowing down the country’s development.1
In Mumbai, Sandeep Zutshi, a researcher at IIT Bombay and a budding social entrepreneur is contributing in his own small (yet significant) way to brighten up lives in the city’s urban-rural areas.
Zutshi informs us that,”There are nearly 100 million households who are off the grind or have access to energy for only 3-8 hours a day.”
Sandeep along with like-minded friends founded Bombay Bijlee – a social enterprise that aims to provide rural and underprivileged homes with clean, affordable and reliable energy. Their product, Bijlee Box is a solar power generator, storage, and delivery system. It provides reliable electricity services through a pay-as-you-go model with a mobile money facility to off-grid or grid underserved customers in Mumbai.
The Bijlee Box secures affordable electricity needs for the entire household. It can support two LED lamps, mobile phone charging, and a TV. To avail the service, customers pay an initial commitment fee, while the rest of the payments are made via a mobile phone in regular installments for a period of 4 years.
Lighting up Lives
Sandeep started building the Bijlee Box in 2017 after his encounter with Sanjeevani Tai, a 40-year-old-woman living in Yeoor, Thane. During a casual conversation with her, he realised that most of her worries – educational future of her 8-year old daughter, her mother-in-law’s dream of watching television, etc. – stemmed from the lack of electricity and a high dependence on kerosene.
Determined to make a change, Sandeep went to her after two months with his new prototype- Bijlee Box. An IoT-based smart solar energy harvester, storage and delivery device. It consisted of a 75 Watt solar panel. It also consisted of a TV, Set Top Box, and 3 Led Bulbs.
With a mere 25% down payment, Sanjeevani Tai had solved one of her major life issues. As compared to the 500 rupees’ kerosene lamp, the Bijlee Box proved to be a cleaner, safer and smarter investment. This was Sandeep’s first real pilot.
More Power to People
Having seen the fruits of his labour, Sandeep invested months into groundwork and research to better his prototype. He realised that a number of underprivileged spaces received solar energy from established companies, but these companies failed to provide real-time customer services which resulted in discontinuation.
Sandeep decided to bridge this gap with an innovative and disruptive approach. He goes on to tell us why Bijlee Box might be the energy solution we all need.
“It’s USP is the self-diagnostic hardware and software system that detects any particular fault in the system and sends an automatic text to a local technician. The local technician can then provide any proactive or prompt services to avoid any permanent damage. The beneficiary can easily save up to 20,000 rupees with this investment.”
A Path to a Brighter Future
The organisation has successfully partnered with Micro Finance Institutions to increase its reach. For the first leg of the program, the Bijlee Box was installed in 18 households. After their feedback was incorporated, the product was upgraded and provided to over 100 households. Currently catering to households in Thane and Palghar, Sandeep plans to provide these solar services to people in Assam.
The organisation is in the process of filing two patents and are supported by Villgro-GIZ, Department of Science & Technology, SAP India and NASSCOM Social Foundation and IIT Bombay. Determined to work hard, the company aims to impact 4 million lives and bridge the electricity gap between rural and urban in a period of just four years.
Watch how Bombay Biljee is lighting up lives.