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.
From just one village system in 2011 — which comprises two solar panels, two batteries and four distribution lines — Mera Gao has since been able to set more than 1,200 systems in place. And from serving 7,000 customers in June 2013, Mera Gao now has 21,000 clients.
So how was Mera Gao able to expand so quickly in just three years? We spoke with Shaad, co-founder and director handling business development at Mera Gao.