Let There Be Light: Hope in the Slums of India - Tonight on Foreign Correspondent

Airs Tuesday, May 26 on Foreign Correspondent at 8pm on ABC

India’s economy is hurtling along even faster than China’s, yet a third of its population – about 400 million people – still live without electricity. 

So, in the absence of power, every night in the sprawling shanty-towns of India’s cities, the air fills with the dense smoke of kerosene used for lighting and cooking.

For the slum-dwellers the smoke is a killer - equivalent to consuming up to two packs of cigarettes a day.

But now a small group of Australians have ventured into the slums to offer what they say is a safe and simple solution – portable solar-powered lights.  

“We basically decided that if we wanted to solve this huge problem it had to be a business solution. You just can’t give away 400 million lights.” - KAT KIMMORLEY, Pollinate Energy Co-founder

The lights sold by Australia’s Pollinate Energy don’t come cheap by Indian standards. But they’re proving popular.

Rag-picker Abdul bought a solar light to help him find valuable scraps in the great piles of rubbish generated in Bangalore. The light helps him work longer hours and possibly earn extra money to get his children educated.

The idea is not just about providing destitute families with a safe and sustainable alternative to kerosene. It’s also about jobs. Latha is one of a small army of sales reps or “pollinators” who work the slums and earn commissions on every light they sell. The income gives her confidence and respect from her relatives.

Pollinate Energy aims to be self-sustaining, ploughing back profits to expand the business and attract future investors. If all goes to plan the Australian solar light enterprise could be part of the solution to a far bigger problem. In a few years from now about 900 million people are expected to be living in slums across the world. In India the cities will double in size in two decades.

“If we can be across the world providing sustainable energy solutions and sustainable energy products  to people at the bottom of the pyramid everywhere, that is a world I would like to live in.” - KAT KIMMORLEY