Aiming to “usher in an age of energy independence in rural India,” Servals Automation Pvt Ltd (SAPL) markets innovations to the bottom of the pyramid population. The enterprise is involved in production, marketing, and research & design in the effort to harness the productive power of the rural poor. This winner of the 2007 L-Ramp award for excellence develops socially appropriate technologies and partners with NGOs and SHGs for production and marketing. The Managing Director, P. Mukundan, leads the company in its efforts to transform rural India.
SAPL’s products include energy efficient kerosene burners and rain guns. The burners offer a 30% savings in kerosene, and the rain guns promote water conservation through micro-irrigation. SAPL also aims to reduce the carbon footprint through their products, which are either “low carbon,” like the kerosene burners, or “carbon negative,” like their Top Lit Up Draft wood stoves which put carbon back into the soil. According to their website, cooking stoves contribute 18% to the rise of carbon dioxide, so innovation in the design of these stoves will have a large impact on the environment.
An exciting development from the R&D front is the “straight vegetable oil stove,” a breakthrough technology that uses plant oil as cooking fuel. This stove enables the use of locally available non-edible plant oil instead of kerosene. These are renewable sources of green energy that can be leveraged only if there is availability of plant oil. According to P. Mukundan, “these high impact, environmentally friendly energy inventions are awaiting market readiness. But we believe that when its true potential is reached, its ability to transform the cooking energy trajectory is enormous. As is its potential to impact lives through its income generation activities.” SAPL is currently getting ready to launch this product commercially.
The manufacturing and marketing aspects of the business are also made socially relevant. Manufacturing is done in homes, encouraging rural employment. Marketing is done by SHGs, who help demonstrate the usefulness of the product. In turn, SAPL hopes to create rural energy entrepreneurs that will sell these products. Through innovative approaches both in their product and business model, SAPL is a social enterprise that is making technology relevant and useful for rural India.