Profile: Shyam Patra, Naturetech – Winner, India

Describe an overview of your organization and highlight the vision you see way forward?

Naturetech Infrastructure Pvt. Ltd. is a social enterprise building model villages based on holistic approach to rural development centered on smart solar AC micro grid infrastructure. Naturetech microgrids power village street lights, households, schools, water pumps and its grids can be scaled up to support local industry. As a part of its Integrated rural Development Model, Naturetech also builds modern sanitation complexes and help improve the education infrastructure in rural schools by installing Digital IT Lab & Smart Classrooms, all powered from solar energy.

Our vision is to ensure the rural populace has access to modern energy services, which in turn will enable an ecosystem for social development and behavioral change towards energy consumption. Our technology model operates on three fronts,

  • Decentralized Solar Power Plant
  • Smart Energy meters
  • Cloud based Server for Remote Monitoring and Energy Management.

Incorporated in 2009, Naturetech Infra has established its presence in 50 villages and directly impacting the livelihood of 40000+ rural villagers.

What inspired you to start working in this area?  Are there any key people who inspired you to work in this area?

As part of my Business Development assignments earlier to set up large thermal power plants, I used to travel rural areas in Bihar. There I had my first interaction with villagers and came to know about their difficulties of not having access to Electricity, though there used to be large power station nearby. Moreover, theses villagers face the brunt of all pollution from such power stations nearby.

I was working in the power sector and asked to myself if I can do anything in contributing to society in solving this energy access problem and while doing so, to ensure sustainability.

At that time in March 2011, there was another entity called Mera Gao Power driven by Mr. Nikhil Jaisinhani, who were providing low cost Electricity to few villages in UP. We thought, we can attempt to start our work in Bihar with my own power sector knowledge and experience.

2 years later, we were working on a much improved model of AC smart grid in UP and by 2016, we were working on with our own Smart Village models with CSR funding on Pan India basis.

Explain how your business model works and highlight the potential it has in developing a prolonged social impact?

We bring forward a scalable and strategic CSR model to replicate.

We are pioneer in rolling out the commercial model of the most innovative and cost effective ways to electrify remote rural households through smart AC solar micro-grid with first time in India, Smart metering & theft free and tamper proof power distribution network. In a village we cater to household loads & other village productive loads like street lighting,  irrigation pump sets, drinking water RO plants, schools, health centers, shops & food processing plants etc.

All beneficiaries in the village pay for the electricity service received by them. The money collected covers the operations and maintenance expenses. Surplus revenue is returned to meet any exigencies & as a contribution to battery replacement reserve.

We setup various committees in the village like village energy committee, farmers club etc. to empower the villagers take the operational control and responsibilities of the project through our guidance. We appoint and train local youths during installation if the project and such trained youths then help the village committee to operate and maintain the project.

What has been most difficult in your journey as an entrepreneur?

Most difficult has been to locate off-grid villages in far off rural areas, then to install and maintain our Solar microgrid and then to manage the revenue collection. Many times, I have personally driven my car to such far flung areas facing all risks and used to stay in those villages for a week or more, where there used to be no basic amenities.

No matter, such experiences, helped us to improve our models and come up with our Model Integrated Rural Development Projects catering to developmental issues in rural areas.

Our innovative and grassroot models of development brought in recognition and accolades for us, which was someway came as reward to our hard work, apart from our  priceless internal satisfaction that we are able to contribute in some way in bringing a sustainable development in Rural areas, which now stands at about 10,000 beneficiaries from our projects.

If you could share some wisdom with yourself 3 years ago, what would it be?

  1. Don’t be very conservative and possessive about your company. You need to lose your control if you want growth. So, allow outsiders to partner with you and have a stake or interest
  2. Evaluate the opportunities in a time bound manner and grab it if you are not losing hard cash in all likely situations. Opportunities won’t come again and again.
  3. Invest in setup, manpower and market building. Returns to follow in a time frame of 1-2 years. Till then sustain your expenses.

Where do you hope to be 3 years from now?

We strive to  be the most reliable, innovative and prominent solar-based rural development projects implementing agency, with leading corporations as our CSR Project Sponsors with business in excess of RS. 100 mn.

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