Rustam graduated from INSEAD and he has been a banker for Standard Chartered Bank in Singapore, a consultant for Deloitte Consulting in US and a researcher for ICOS Vision Systems in Belgium, having lived and worked in five countries across the globe. He also holds a Masters in Electrical Engineering from University of California, Irvine besides the MBA from INSEAD.
After quitting his finance job in September 2009, Russ has been working with NGOs, manufacturers and villagers to design and develop the Boond products, model and supply chain.
Above Video : Times Now covered Rustam Sengupta - Amazing Indian (Mahindra Rise)
The Boond mission is to solve some of the biggest global challenges – adequate lighting, access to clean drinking water and pest control affecting the remote areas of the world. Through its innovative environment friendly products and sustainable business oriented approach.
A child growing up in Paushi, a remote village in India studies under kerosene lamps and drinks dirty pond water every day. This not only retards his productivity but also makes him vulnerable to life threatening diseases. This is not an isolated example but the condition in nearly 25% of India (or of nearly 300 million people).
The problem is not of the lack of products as inexpensive off grid solutions do exist (in cities and western countries) but that of improper distribution channels and the lack of support services and financial alternatives. The hiatus is hence in the ‘access’ as real challenge for development is to push the productivity enhancing products to the places that need them the most in a sustainable, affordable and service centric way.
Rustam’s responsibility is to make Boond work and become sustainable on its own two feet. He gets his energy from the realization that he is working on some of the biggest challenges that the world has ever faced and every minute that he puts into Boond helps to make a social impact.
HOW IS BOOND CREATING AN IMPACT?
Boond’s solution to this problem of ‘access’ is through the development of locally managed distribution centers and agents who sell productivity enhancement items on credit. Boond ensures that the products match the needs of the community through rural feedback based designs (often extremely robust & low maintenance) and has a low cost commission based peer to peer sales model.
Some products are bundled (as the Boond Development Kit) together to reduce logistical and transportation overheads. Boond opens distribution centers in remote rural areas and trains local youth (commission based) to sell and service the products, thereby also providing them livelihood.
Rose, a woman agent in Manipur (remote state of India) has sold over 120 kits (with solar lamps, filters & nets) in 2011.
WHO IS IT TARGETING?
Boond works with people in the remote rural areas of India. It tries to create entrepreneurs who sell and service ‘productivity enhancement goods’ while bringing access to light, clean water and pest control to their communities.
India is the 6th largest energy consumer in the world but 25% of its citizen or 300 million people still live in complete darkness or with rudimentary lighting
This retards their productivity and causes a significant increase in green houses gases (CO2) in the atmosphere as kerosene lamps are used instead.
According to WHO, 10% of the global disease burden could be reduced by improved access to water and sanitation and by a staggering 15 per cent in the worst? affected countries like India. Diseases like cholera, typhoid and diarrhea are rampant in India mostly due to bad water.
'WE show the light.' joked Rustam Sengupta, as he walked down the dusty lanes of Undwa with a team of bank officials. Sengupta was keen to show them the solar-powered home lighting systems they had installed in the village. Undwa is about 20 km from Ramganj Mandi, a town in Kota district of Rajasthan.
Boond’s mission isn’t limited to selling solar home lighting systems. “Our focus is not products,” explains Sengupta. “We don’t produce anything. We are trying to build a sustainable multi-product distribution channel in rural India. This would ensure that people in remote villages gain access to low-cost innovative products that can improve their quality of life and create livelihoods.”
"There are many affordable, innovative and excellent products in India’s urban markets and abroad which can provide villagers with basics like electricity, clean water, smokeless cooking stoves, sanitary napkins and so on. But the real problem is accessibility. There is no retail infrastructure in the rural hinterland to sell such products. Our focus is to build that distribution channel in a cost-effective way so that over time we can sell many such products at high volumes and low margins,” says Sengupta.
In Undwa, the company lit up Ramgopal Dhakar’s home. His grandfather is 100 years old and can’t see a thing after dark. His children can’t do their homework. Dhakar has bought a 40W system comprising a solar panel and a battery that gives him three lamps to light up three rooms. He also has a 15-watt plug point to recharge his mobile phone or run a fan.
Rustam launched Boond with Rs 20 lakhs of his own money. He straight away lost Rs 7 lakhs in his first two pilot projects. Later, he got Rs 20 lakh from angel investors and Rs 25 lakh from CIIE (Centre for Innovation, Incubation and Entrepreneurship in IIM-Ahmedabad). CIIE also provides strategic advice and connections to Boond through its extensive network of academics and experts.
Boond has been incubated by SELCO, India’s largest solar light distribution company headed by well-known entrepreneur, Harish Hande. SELCO has installed over 1,50,000 systems in Karnataka and Sengupta hopes to replicate his mentor in poorer states like Rajasthan.
In two years he has lit up 50,000 lives with 6,000 solar home lighting units. His mission is to reach one million people by 2015.
This post is for ISB iDiya IndiChange - iDiya is ISB's National Social Venture Competition that aims to stimulate, enable and develop high-impact, self-sustaining social businesses in India.
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