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How Powering Livelihoods is boosting rural economy?

The six core enterprises under the initiative collectively have the potential to generate more than 10 lakh new livelihoods for women and men in rural India

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In line with Prime Minister Modi’s call for Aatma Nirbhar Bharat, Piyush Goyal, Minister of Commerce and Industry and Minister of Railways, along with, Damilola Ogunbiyi, CEO and Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All, and Co-Chair of UN-Energy; and Rajiv Kumar, Vice Chairman, NITI Aayog, launched Powering Livelihoods, an initiative by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) and Villgro Innovations Foundation, to boost India’s rural economy. The Rs 22 crore initiative provides capital and technical support to Indian enterprises working on clean energy-based livelihoods solutions.

The initiative also recently offered a cumulative emergency funding of Rs1 crore to six selected enterprises to help them tide over the current crises caused by COVID-19.

The six core enterprises announced at the launch today include Resham Sutra, Greenwear Fashion, Dharambir Food Processing, Khethworks, Devidayal Solar Solutions, and Hydrogreens Agri Solutions. While these enterprises operate out of Delhi, Lucknow, Yamuna Nagar, Pune, Mumbai and Bengaluru, respectively, their customers are spread across the country. The selected enterprises are deploying a wide variety of solar-powered livelihood solutions including water pumps, multipurpose food processors, commercial refrigerators, and textile machinery (reeling, spinning and weaving) and fodder growing stations.

Two of the six enterprises, Dharambir Food Processing and Greenwear Fashion, have also contributed to India’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. While Dharambir Food Processing has been supplying aloe vera gel for manufacturing hand sanitisers, Greenwear has supplied over 400,000 reusable cotton masks to corporates and local government departments in Uttar Pradesh.

These enterprises collectively have the potential to generate more than 10 lakh new livelihoods for women and men in rural India. The initiative also has a special focus on encouraging the enterprises to adopt gender-inclusive strategies to enhance women’s participation across the value chain. Powering Livelihoods is currently supported by IKEA Foundation; Shell Foundation; DFID (UK Government); Good Energies Foundation; and DOEN Foundation. The initiative has also onboarded 15 investors and financiers including Acumen, Beyond Capital Fund, Caspian Debt, and Upaya Social Ventures.

At the launch, Piyush Goyal said, “I would like to compliment CEEW for completing 10 years of servicing the nation. Institutions like CEEW are helping the country to move forward in its endeavour towards clean energy. India is making rapid strides in using clean and renewable energy. We should look at leveraging modern technology and see how we can power livelihoods in villages. I also congratulate CEEW and Villgro for their initiative Powering Livelihoods which could have a multidimensional impact in our villages. The initiative could also fulfill the Prime Minister’s vision of being vocal for local and also helping local go global. The collective work of innovators and start-ups, industry, and government will improve the livelihoods of people.”

Speaking on the launch, Rajiv Kumar, Vice Chairman, NITI Aayog, said, “I would like to congratulate CEEW for this remarkable feat to help in raising 22 crore for the six enterprises. One of NITI Aayog’s mandates is innovation, and I am glad that your initiative Powering Livelihoods is supporting such innovative enterprises. There are more than 3.5 crore micro entrepreneurs in rural India who have huge potential for contributing to India’s growth. Despite their potential, they suffer because of certain constraints like access to infrastructure and credit that hinders their growth. We're committed to a self-reliant India and Powering Livelihoods programme will certainly contribute to the Aatma Nirbhar Bharat - by addressing the major constraints for growth among rural micro-entrepreneurs and ensuring that our need for fossil fuels and its imports are reduced.”

Kunal Vaid, Founder of Resham Sutra, said, “We are very excited to be a part of Powering Livelihoods. There are more than 15 million unemployed or underemployed women in rural India. The initiative would help us expand the market and provide livelihoods to the poorest of the poor. This is an opportunity for us to hit the sweet spot of sustainability, affordability, and performance to appeal to the rural customer.”

Abhishek Jain, who is leading the initiative at CEEW, said, “Powering Livelihoods is committed to making rural India Aatma Nirbhar by creating new livelihood opportunities, especially for women, and helping raise rural incomes. Under Powering Livelihoods, we will help enterprises in the clean energy-based livelihoods sector to get better support from financiers, investors and policymakers. This will help them scale up and achieve meaningful impact.”

Ananth Aravamudan, who is leading the initiative at Villgro, said, “As India rebuilds its rural economy post-COVID, Powering Livelihoods will provide evidence that new livelihoods can be created and rural communities made resilient, using clean energy.”

Over 40 lakh micro enterprises in India indicate lack of electricity as the top bottleneck to their business. While about 60 clean energy innovations for livelihoods exist, their deployment on the ground is limited to hundreds. India has a market of more than Rs 3.7 lakh crore (USD 50 billion) for clean energy-based livelihood solutions. By enabling commercial deployments of these solutions, Powering Livelihoods aims to unlock finance, investment and policy support for the sector.

Powering Livelihoods, a CEEW-Villgro initiative, aims to boost India’s rural economy by scaling up the penetration of clean energy-powered appliances for livelihoods.

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