WDI Speaker to Explore Scaling Solar in India

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Rustam Sengupta, a clean energy social entrepreneur, will discuss his mission to bring solar power to some of the 300-plus million people in India who do not have access to electricity as part of the WDI Global Impact Speaker Series. The talk begins at 5 p.m., Nov. 30 in room R2220 at the Ross School of Business, and is free and open to the public.  

(Click here to watch Rustam Sengupta’s Nov. 30 classroom presentation.)

Workers prepare a roof for solar panels. (Image courtesy of Boond Engineering & Development)

Sengupta is founder and chief executive officer of the energy start-up Boond Engineering & Development, which in six years has provided clean-energy lighting solutions to 100,000 low-income individuals and small-scale enterprises in rural, northern states of India.

Solar-enabled micro grids are one of the more innovative energy solutions for individual homes developed by Boond. Homes equipped with pre-paid energy meters are wired to a central charging station powered by solar energy. In each meter is a removable energy “stick” – similar to a USB thumb drive – that can be taken to the central charging station where more electricity can be purchased depending on a homeowner’s needs.

(Find out more about the about the Boond technology in the company-produced video below):

Sengupta was invited to speak by WDI Senior Research Fellow Ted London, who was introduced by a former U-M student. Sengupta was aware of the base of the pyramid (BoP) work London and WDI have done over the years and was eager to connect.

“In getting to know Rustam and his enterprise, Boond, what has struck me is both the innovation in their technology and the learning process the leadership team has enabled to build their business model,” said London, who also is vice president of WDI’s Scaling Impact Initiative. “They are putting together a very interesting model to address a major challenge – providing energy in rural India – and they are now focused on taking this scale.  Rustam is very open about sharing his learnings and the challenges ahead, which should make this a terrific interactive session and learning opportunity.  I am delighted he is here from India to share with us”

The title of Sengupta’s talk is, “Scaling Enterprise with Compassion – Energizing Rural India One Village at a Time.”

He has a master’s degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of California, Irvine and an MBA from INSEAD. He has worked for Standard Chartered Bank in Singapore, Deloitte Consulting in the U.S., and ICOS Vision Systems in Belgium. He founded Boond in 2010.

In India, about 94 percent of those living in urban areas have electricity compared with 67 percent of people living in the rural parts of the country. An estimated 304 million people do not have access to electricity, the most of any country in the world.

London said Sengupta’s talk at Ross has a lot to offer for students. For those interested in working internationally in the field, “he has a lot of interesting lessons about success, about challenges, about what works and what doesn’t work.”

For students thinking about starting their own social enterprise, London said Sengupta “will certainly share the struggles and the excitement of building your own enterprise.”

And for those interested in clean energy solutions, Boond’s distributed model “has a chance to scale, and that could have implications in the developing world and the developed world,” London said.

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