In 2012 six young Australians, Jamie, Mon, Ben, Katerina, Emma, and Alexie, came together to see if they could find a way for children living in a slum in north Bangalore, India, to have light to study by.
Initially the co-founders worked with another Australian social business, 40K Home, an enterprise focused on providing education to a small migrant community living on the outskirts of Bangalore.
The co-founders focused their efforts on finding a business model for 3 quarry slums but quickly realised there were hundreds of other city slum communities that needed their help. After speaking to suppliers and micro finance organisations they soon realised that no one was going to provide a solution for these families – they were seen as too poor and too risky. So the co-founders decided to start Pollinate Energy and moved to India to set up operations.
The co-founders started with a pilot of 100 solar lights, and once they reached that milestone, they knew they had something that worked. In late 2012 the Fellowship program was launched with the aim of promoting social business globally, while providing funding, training and support to the Pollinators.
The dream soon got even bigger and the team realised their model was highly scalable with the potential to reach millions of people living in poverty across India. The opportunity to expand to cities beyond Bangalore was enormous. The co-founders also wanted to play a role in breaking the cycle of poverty for the urban poor, and to do that they needed to look at the bigger picture and meet more than just their lighting needs. They had already created a successful distribution network for the urban poor, and had developed a Uber-like phone app to manage operations – the hardest part was already done. The co-founders also realised that diversifying the product range was important to ensuring long-term sustainability, a core tenant of the organisation’s philosophy. And so the co-founders focused on new products, meaning customers also had access to clean water, modern technology, clean cooking facilities, proper sanitation facilities and more.
Today, Pollinate Energy is working across many cities beyond Bangalore and is selling a diverse range of products (see Our Products page for more information). But it’s important to remember how we started out – as a bunch of young Aussies with a big idea.