The trust also trains entrepreneurs, with targeted support for women, and works closely with local NGOs and government officials. Its pioneering work has supported the deployment of 600,000 solar energy systems in India, raising incomes and improving people’s daily lives.
At least three billion people around the world lack access to electricity or safe, modern cooking technology. A huge investment in training is needed to help frontline organisations tackle this problem, and to support the growth of new clean energy enterprises in marginalised communities.
Working mainly in the Indian state of Karnataka, Bharatiya Vikas Trust has been driving the spread of renewable energy since 1996. Its holistic approach is designed with and for local people, and the trust’s support particularly helps marginalised groups including women, young people and people with disabilities.
The trust’s courses range in length from a few days to a month, mixing classroom workshops with hands-on sessions seeing technologies in action. Content is adapted for each course but includes information about how different technologies and markets work, as well as the investment required and returns that can be generated.
Training for entrepreneurs also includes business planning information and an introduction to financial institutions. This helps them launch businesses centred on food processing, cold storage, textile work, and many other activities. The trust has trained about 50,000 entrepreneurs and 15,000 financiers.
Helping bankers support new enterprises
The trust trains bankers at all levels – from field officers and branch managers to executive leadership – as well as staff at co-operatives, micro-finance institutions and government departments. The trust has also helped convince policymakers to reduce the rate of interest on solar products.
Raghvendra Upadhya manages a branch of rural banking chain KVGB in Udupi. He says bankers are often hesitant to finance businesses based on solar technology – but that the trust’s programmes build confidence and awareness. After taking part in the training, he now offers financial services that help people launch clean energy enterprises. “You can see that photocopying businesses, sugarcane juice vendors, and tailors have all benefited… this is helping poor and lower income groups earn a sustainable livelihood.”
Ramesh Tunga was, until recently, a regional manager for KVGB. He says: “we are using the trust’s training programmes as a business opportunity. With such programmes, our client base has been increased.” He adds that tailors are one key group the bank is now more able to support. “We have designed three to four customised funding schemes to boost their productivity. Switching to solar energy is one of them.”