Husk Power Systems is an alternative energy business that turns recycled rice husks into an energy supply. In rural India, close to 50 percent of households rely on dangerous kerosene lanterns for light and diesel generators for commercial power. With this new form of energy supply that turns agricultural waste into clean, safe, inexpensive energy, villages in Bihar will pay less for energy (over 200% savings) and can do more beyond daylight while reducing health risks. The benefits extend to jobs in rural areas and local and global environment protection.
The social enterprise was a 2009 winner of the Global Social Benefit Incubator (GSBI), a program developed by the Santa Clara University’s Centre for Science, Technology, and Society to see if the talents of Silicon Valley could be combined with the spirit of social entrepreneurs to help them build their businesses and amplify their impact. The program is in its 10th year and to date, 139 social enterprises have participated where each is given individualized mentoring by executives and leaders in Silicon Valley.
So far, Husk Power Systems has managed to serve 200,000 people in 300 villages across Bihar, and plans to reach 10 million people in the future. As a matter of fact, over 50 percent of GSBI Alumni are scaling, meaning their revenues are growing faster than their expenses. This is a feat that may not even be possible for the conventional for-profit venture.
Other High-Growth Social Enterprises
Past winners of GSBI include Digital Divide Data (2004), Drishtee (2006), and VisionSpring (2006). All are leading examples of how positive social impact and profit can coexist and are redefining the role of business in society.
What Makes Them Flourish
Though they differ by region or sector served, social enterprises that emerge from the GSBI program have one thing in common, which is to develop sound business models that will flourish and last. Yes, there is money available in Silicon Valley, but social impact or good intentions alone will not get venture capitalists or impact investors to pour in their money. Not only are returns important to them, experts have argued that charity in solving problems often does more harm than good to society. The GSBI program teaches social entrepreneurs to balance social impact with profit. Consequently, the greater their business scales, the bigger social impact they can create.
Social Enterprise Buzz is a media company dedicated to covering social enterprise news from around the world. We publish a range of stories from startups to entrepreneurship, innovation, and finance, which showcase business making the world a better place. Read more.