Shell Foundation, Zone Startups Launch Women Entrepreneurship Programme in the Energy Sector

Published Apr. 25, 2017

By Sohini Mitter for YourStory

About Powering Agriculture

Powering Agriculture: An Energy Grand Challenge for Development supports the development and deployment of clean energy innovations that increase agriculture productivity and stimulate low carbon economic growth in the agriculture sector of developing countries to help end extreme poverty and extreme hunger.

The programme focuses on ideas and innovation in Access to Energy, Sustainable Mobility, Waste to Energy, Circular Economy, and more. Select startups would receive a Shell grant of $10,000.

Shell Foundation has partnered with Zone Startups India to launch an entrepreneurship programme for women in the energy sector. ‘POWERED’ - as it is called - is said to be a first-of-its-kind initiative that will support 30 women-led energy startups spread across two cohorts. Select startups in this programme will also be eligible for a grant of $10,000 from Shell.

Other collaborators in this programme are UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), India’s Department of Science & Technology (DST) and Ryerson Futures, a Toronto-based startup accelerator. Mumbai-based Zone will lead the on-ground execution and undertake multi-city roadshows to invite applications. The programme commences on June 30, 2018.

The objective of this programme is to support local women-owned businesses in the energy sector, and help them expand their products and services, and aid in the financing and innovation. According to Shell Foundation, India has over 480 million people without “regular access to reliable electricity”.

Several startups have now emerged that are building “affordable” solutions to improve energy access among “low-income” customers in India. Shell Foundation is already invested in this space for a decade.

Since 2008, it has been working with entrepreneurs in Bihar to scale up a rural electrification company by the name of Husk Power Systems. It generates electricity through the gasification of rice husk – an abundant waste feedstock – and sells that electricity on a pay-as-you-go basis to local communities. So far, Husk has served over two lakh people in Bihar.

Shell’s focus on women entrepreneurs in energy is new.

Sam Parker, Director of Shell Foundation, said:

“At Shell Foundation, we believe integrating gender-inclusion strategies leads to better performing businesses. Women entrepreneurs have limited access to blend of early-stage support and capital they require to grow sustainably. This programme is a unique opportunity to create an enabling ecosystem to nurture and support women entrepreneurs innovating in the energy value chain through products and business models.”

The programme will support ideas in Access to Energy, Sustainable Mobility, Waste to Energy, Circular Economy, and more. Through the six-week residential accelerator programme and further bootcamps and startup challenges, women entrepreneurs will get mentoring support, a place at industry events, networking opportunities with peers and sector-specific business leaders, as well as chances to test proof-of-concepts.

For Zone Startups, which is a largely tech-focused accelerator, this programme is a novel opportunity to make a dent in the energy sector.

Ajay Ramasubramaniam, Director (India), Zone Startups, told YourStory:

“The idea is to create an ecosystem of energy entrepreneurship with a focus on women. It will involve a lot of evangelising activity where we will broaden the base of ideas in energy. It wouldn’t be about power and electricity only. We’ll also look at sustainable solutions that can impact healthcare, agriculture, MSMEs and so on. Innovation could be in tech, business process or product.”

Zone would be providing end-to-end programme management for POWERED. The roadshows would be held in Mumbai, Bengaluru, Ahmedabad, Chennai, Shillong, Dehradun and Delhi, and programme applications would be accepted until June 18, 2018.

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Jul. 19, 2018

Husk Power Systems and First Solar are helping India achieve complete household electrification by December 2018 by using a hybrid system. Solar power provides electricity and charges batteries for nighttime use during the day. A biomass gasification system is used as a backup.