In 2010, U.S.-born entrepreneurs Brian Shaad and Nikhil Jaisinghani moved from Nigeria — where they were both living and working at the time — to Uttar Pradesh, a state in northern India that shares a border with Nepal. Why? To bring clean and efficient light to the state’s off-grid rural villages, which, up to that point, were still completely reliant on kerosene.
Shaad and Jaisinghani established Mera Gao Power that year and started commercial operations in December 2011. A lighting utility social enterprise, Mera Gao provides low-cost solar microgrids to communities in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state. Costing less than $1,000, each microgrid is able to provide light and charge mobile phone batteries for seven hours a day, seven days a week to at least 30 homes. Each household that subscribes to the service receives two LED lights and a mobile phone charger, and pays a fixed fee of 25 rupees ($0.42) per week. Customers don’t pay for the energy they consume; they pay to gain access to the service.