NURU Energy to Empower

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NURU Energy to Empower

New Delhi, India
Organization type: 
for profit
Project Stage:
$250,000 - $500,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

With an enduring commitment to solving the problem of energy poverty, which affects over 400 million Indians, Nuru Energy develops and delivers one-of-a-kind, robust and simple-to-use off-grid lighting and energy solutions for rural areas. These include individually charged, modular and multifunctional LED task-lights, called NURUlights and the world's first commercially available pedal generator, the NURU POWERCycle which provides reliable clean, sustainable power anytime, anywhere, and is hundreds of times more efficient than current solar-based solutions at a fraction of the cost. Used to recharge NURUlights and mobile phones, the POWERCycle is an unparalleled answer to the problem of Energy Poverty. NURU has also developed inexpensive, modular solar panels, an AC recharging option and off-grid mobile phone charging, and is currently developing the world's first parasitic LED light bulb. Co-created with villagers themselves, each of our solutions tackles unique rural energy needs.

We work from the ground-up, with local organizations to recruit and train rural entrepreneurs, who sell NURU's products to their community, in some cases also offering recharging services for a small fee. Entrepreneurs hence, gain additional livelihood while benefiting their communities.

For our efforts in India alone, we have been recognized and awarded by Ashoka Changemakers, Ebay Foundation, Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership and SIDA, among others.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Over 400 million people in India and 2 billion people globally lack reliable access to electricity from the grid. 90% of these households rely on dangerous and polluting kerosene to meet their most basic energy need - for lighting. Inhaling kerosene fumes causes respiratory disease and is one of the leading causes of child deaths in India. In addition, kerosene lanterns are also the leading cause of burns and household fires in rural areas. Finally, kerosene is expensive; although a certain monthly quota is subsidized by the Indian government, the quota is rarely enough to fulfill households’ needs forcing them to purchase additional kerosene in the black market and even burn vegetable oil when no kerosene is available. On average Indian rural households spend between $2-3 on kerosene per month for lighting purposes alone. In addition, the advent of mobile telecommunications and mass-availability of low-cost mobile phones has made the use of mobile phones a necessity in rural areas, and crucial to remaining connected with the outside world. Recharging mobile phones represents a primary energy need in rural India today. However, with a shortage of grid-based electricity, rural consumers are forced to charge their phones at local shops, spending on average $3-4 on recharging their phones per month, while only spending $2 per month on average on usage. Recharging mobile phones and purchasing kerosene, together account for up to 15% of household expenditure. A solution is needed.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Nuru Energy has developed a one-of-a-kind, modular and multifunctional, rechargeable LED lighting and low-power energy (mobile phone recharging) solution - the NURUlight, a task-light which retails on its own for under $6 and may be recharged in multiple ways, each recharging solution geared for varying degrees of electrification and consumer affordability. The most unique recharging solution, the NURU POWERCycle is the world’s first commercially-available pedal generator. With minimal exertion (approx. one rotation per second), up to 5 NURUlights are recharged simultaneously in just under 20 minutes. The POWERCycle is 400x more efficient than most solar panels, producing 400 minutes of light per minute of pedalling. Being human-powered, the POWERCycle is not affected by unpredictable weather patterns and can therefore recharge products anytime, anywhere. In addition, Nuru Energy has developed individual clip-on solar panels for NURUlights as well as grid-based AC chargers. Finally, to meet the dual needs of task and ambient lighting, Nuru Energy is currently developing the world's first parasitic LED-lantern, a multi-LED light bulb that draws power from the NURUlight – reducing the upfront cost of acquiring a brand new product while significantly enhancing value for the rural consumer. NURU’s solutions are deployed through rural entrepreneurs who acquire the products via micro-loans from our local partners and earn a livelihood from selling and recharging NURU products.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Nuru Energy's model is powered by rural entrepreneurs and our products are designed to evolve with the ever-changing needs of our consumers as well the dynamics of rural grid-electricity access and availability in India. Our first entrepreneur in India, Ranjan Lima of Hathikhamba village in Rayagada district, Odisha was a local priest and brick-maker, typically earning between US$50-60 per month for his family of 3. His village had no access to electricity and upon attending a community meeting in a neighboring village conducted by Nuru Energy and our local microfinance partner BASIX, Ranjan approached us to set up his NURU Microfranchise. Through a micro-loan from BASIX, Ranjan acquired a NURU POWERCycle and NURUlights to sell in his own and in neigbouring villages. Since customers were too poor to pay the entire upfront cost of $6 per NURUlight, Ranjan provided them through 2 monthly installments of $3 each. Earning a small mark-up of $0.50 per NURUlight sold as well as a recharge fee of $0.05 per NURUlight per week, Ranjan financed short trips to neighboring villages and the local village markets to market NURUlights to the villagers. After selling 60 NURUlights in less than 6 months, Ranjan earned an additional income of $24 a month, saving enough in a few months to finance the re-roofing and water-proofing of his home. However, when the electricity situation in his village improved, Ranjan found less demand for his recharging services and more demand for a grid-based recharging solution by his customers. Nuru Energy and its partner BASIX, then financed AC chargers for the NURUlights to Ranjan, allowing him to sell them at a mark-up, earning $30 from the sale while still recharging NURUlights on the POWERCycle as and when the electricity situation worsened. Still employing the POWERCycle when needed, Ranjan earned on average $8 from recharging NURUlights per month. To address the need of mobile phone charging, Nuru Energy now aims to provide newly developed NURUlight-based Mobile Phone charging cables to customers in Ranjan's village as well as Ambient Lights for which there has been significant demand. Our pilot project demonstrated kerosene reduction at the household level of over 30% within just 2 months of using NURUlights and over 20% savings over kerosene within the same time frame. In addition, our rural entrepreneur was able to increase his household income by over 25% from the micro franchise while spending less than an hour per day on the activity! This example demonstrates how Nuru Energy's solutions evolve with consumer and entrepreneur needs, as we continue to co-create products from the ground-up, increasing our impact and making modern energy solutions available to some of the most remote rural communities across India.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Nuru Energy's main competitors are government-subsidized kerosene and cheap, ‘black-market’ rechargeable LED lighting products (from China) which have become ubiquitous, like kerosene, in rural India. While there do exist other companies selling rechargeable solar lanterns, the penetration of these products is far too low (less than 0.5%) to pose any competition. Reliance on kerosene represents a social habit in most rural areas, formed over decades of regular use. No matter what the available alternatives, purchasing a certain amount of kerosene is considered necessary by rural households. The larger challenge from kerosene lies in that it requires an inexpensive lantern (typically costing under $3) to be used and that it can be purchased in increments, as and when needed. To tackle this NURU designed its products and delivery model to mimic kerosene as closely as possible – requiring minimal upfront investment and costing typically 50% less to recharge per month than kerosene. Black-market lighting products from China distort quality standards and pricing perceptions for LED-lights in rural markets. Typically imported without paying any duties and manufactured without any quality control, these products have created a ‘use-and-throw’ market for rechargeable LED lights and influenced rural Indians to mistrust the quality of rechargeable LED lights. To set NURU's solutions apart, NURU provides warranties as well as reliable and timely servicing for all its products.


Indrani Sharma's picture

Your innovation is very impressive. AFI Growth Prize Competition studied the growth tracker in your Changeshop and viewed many milestones that you envisioned getting completing by end of December 2012. Broadly they were around product development and different phases of expansion. AFI requests for a brief overview to the status of your growth tracker milestones to get an insight to their achievement (though non achievement of the milestones in no way will impact our final evaluation if supported by valid rationale)