Meet the nine women entrepreneurs from the energy sector who are now a part of the second cohort at Powered Accelerator.
The energy domain has always been male-dominated. Working in areas such as wastewater solutions, solar energy, etc., requires not only time in the field but also interactions with multiple stakeholders. It is not an easy sector to work in, especially when the challenge is not just to create impact and solve a problem but to also be profitable. It is here that women entrepreneurs can do with not just mentorship but also financial support.
This is exactly what Powered Accelerator aims to do. It focuses on helping women entrepreneurs expand their innovative services and products and to empower women-owned and managed businesses in the energy space. The initiative was launched last year as a joint initiative from Shell Foundation, India's Department of Science & Technology (DST), the UK's Department for International Development (DFID), and Zone Startups (a leading global technology accelerator).
It selected nine women to be part of its second cohort this year. The entrepreneurs will receive financial support to develop their business and deliver energy solutions across India. In a programme spread over three months, the women will also get mentorship, one-on-one sessions with industry experts, along with the opportunity to showcase their offerings, and access to a range of services and support. Selected companies will also receive equity-free seed fund of up to $10,000.
“We believe this second cohort can be transformative in building long-term business solutions to meet India’s off-grid energy needs, delivering employment and new technologies that will positively improve the lives and livelihoods of people in low-income rural and urban areas,” says Sam Parker, Director, Shell Foundation.
The second cohort comprises of startups in areas ranging from manufacturing solar products, and smart energy solutions, to waste and livelihood creating models. HerStory spoke to a few women in the cohort to know more about them and their work in the energy domain.
An environmental biotechnologist, Dr Vanita Prasad is also the Founder and Director - Product and Technology R&D of REVY Environmental Solutions, which has developed a cost-effective and indigenous process of treating wastewater and releasing biogas in the process.
Vanita holds patents for specific innovations in the field of waste management and renewable energy and has had a long association with the industry as a consultant scientist while heading R&D functions of various waste management companies.
Headquartered in Baroda, she started her entrepreneurial journey in 2017, but it took a lot of research before she could actually kickstart her venture. Her seven-person team is currently focusing on the pilot and manufacturing. This will be followed by actual trials and the launch. The products are patented, but they need to commercialise these by end of this year.
Starting in this space has been full of challenges for Vanita, who has over 20 years of experience. She says,
“The challenges include making something not just impactful but also profitable. Commercialisation is a big problem.”
As a woman, Vanita is often asked questions about how she can stand to be in seedy areas, work with wastewater, or how her skin gets impacted by standing in the sun for long hours. For her, it's all part of the job.
Headquartered in Bengaluru, Cydee Technologies generates energy saving through street lighting. In comparison to conventional street lights, Cydee's patented streetlights save significant amounts of energy . Founder and CEO Monika Jha, who holds a degree in electrical and electronics engineering, is passionate about developing relevant technologies to solve the energy and water crisis.
She and her five-person team are changing the face of street lights, which she describes as mismanaged. Says Monika, “We are looking at streetlights and how lighting and design can change our lives. Instead of two, you can have one street light give out the same amount of light.”
Speaking of challenges, she adds,
“The initial grants for research is one big challenge. When you are patenting the idea, you don’t need VC funding but support from government labs and institutions.”
Monika, who set up the company in 2017, feels access to research is also a challenge since research data often resides only with research institutes and it is sometimes difficult for non-alumni folks to access it. In 2019, Monika is looking to activate her first commercial pilot, validate the product, and pilot it on a public road, among other things.
Debashree Padhi's DD Bio Solution Technology company produces green energy from agro waste. The company provides rural women with an end-to-end clean cooking solution, which allows for an optimized lifecycle converting agro waste into energy.
Debashree, who is CEO and holds a B. Tech in Mechanical Engineering and an M. Tech in Polymer Nanotechnology, has also completed three innovative projects for the Ministry of MSME.
With two decades of experience in the field of energy efficiency, Bhavana Chittawar is the Head of Business Development and Product Development at FinEffi Energy Solutions. The venture works towards saving energy in the residential and commercial sector by reducing electricity costs for the end user. They also help the end users and consumers realise their energy consumption levels through data analytics and IoT devices.
Manvi is CEO & CFO of GTarang Energy Solutions, which is developing devices to convert waste thermal energy from day to day activities. These work at an individual as well as an industrial setup. The company believes that every day, some of our useful energy is lost in the form of waste heat and by re-utilising this lost-but-free energy, the environment can be saved.
“It also helps to increase the efficiency of our systems and processes,” the company claims.
A solar energy enthusiast, Susmita is the MD and Founder of Pushan Renewable Energy Pvt. Ltd., a social enterprise. The startup provides innovative solar powered products and systems. The company is headquartered in Indore, Madhya Pradesh.
Sushmita has more than 13 years of working experience, with international companies like Bayer (Canada and US), Lanxess (North America), and DSM (The Netherlands).
Vidya is Director at Paterson Energy Pvt. Ltd., which turns plastic waste into quality fuel oil. A Chennai-based startup, they are recycling plastic waste into plastic oil using continuous type Thermochemical Depolymerization Technology.
Disha is the Founder of Prakriti Biosystems Engineering, which converts organic waste into energy by using membrane-based modular solutions. The company is developing a turn-key solution to purify biogas into vehicular fuel and piped natural gas (PNG) and industrial carbon dioxide. Disha holds a Ph.D. in Chemical and Biological Engineering and has worked for more than a decade as a Senior Scientist at Amgen, USA.
Rukmani Katara is CEO of Durga Energy, a cleantech company based out of Rajasthan. Durga Energy has set up solar panel manufacturing units, which trains and employs women in manufacturing, installation and maintenance of solar products. “Our approach is holistic in terms of women empowerment and energy efficiency,” says Rukmani.
These nine women selected from a pool of more than 150 applications evaluated based on the applicant’s background, innovativeness, the scale of impact, problem solution fit, clarity of thought, and programme fit. “With the success of the first cohort, DFID is keen to continue its support for this transformative platform helping businesses scale up and increase their social impact, ” said Adritha Subbiah, Energy and Green Growth Analyst, DFID India.