On The Ground

2-Pic 1

A day at Husk Power University

Acumen Fund invested in Husk Power Systems (HPS) in 2010 to help them scale their innovative business model of using discarded rice husks as a source for rural off-grid electricity generation. HPS has since expanded to over 90 plants all over Bihar, India, and has launched Husk Power University (HPU), a technical training institute for future mechanics and operators for HPS. One of the students, Sirish Nath Ram was a tailor in Padrauna before he decided he wanted to switch professions. When questioned why, he offered, “As a tailor, I only use my mind. I get greater satisfaction as a mechanic because I use my mind and muscle”. HPU offers individuals like Sirish Nath Ram the ability to train and learn new technical skills, which eventually leads them to better incomes and more opportunities for employment.

Husk Power University (HPU) at Barauni is a 3.5 hour drive outside Patna. HPU has been in operation for over a year and has since recruited, trained and placed approximately 40 mechanics and operators to its various plants in Bihar.

The map shows training institutes, the university itself as well as other important centres for HPU. Most students initially arrive at the Barauni campus, where they are introduced to Husk Power Systems. But before their technical training starts, they are sent to the sites for field training, to see how the plants work. This helps them be certain they want to dedicate the next few months to HPS and train to become a mechanic or operator.

Back in Barauni, students are taught the theory of how the plant functions. Over here, Tiwari ji (the trainer) is explaining the process of purifying the bio gas.

Students are gradually exposed to more complex engines– as well as the various processes that are required to make sure an engine is serviced regularly and functions effectively. They are encouraged to work with the components, to gain confidence and familiarity with the equipment out in the field.

Parts are labelled and laid out, and students are tested on their ability to remember the names of parts and their uses. Only students who score satisfactorily on the written, oral and practical tests are deemed fit to operate plants in the field.

Sirish Nath Ram is a trainee who has completed 4 months of training at HPU. He’s in his final weeks of training before he’s sent to one of the plants to be an Operator (hopefully to Padrauna, the region he’s from). The Training Managers try their best to send new mechanics and operators to plants near their home towns so they’re close to their families.

Sirish Nath Ram works to try and fix a problem in the engine of the plant – the last challenge as a trainee. Often Training Managers simulate errors for the students, to test their ability to act under pressure and unusual circumstances.

Students work in a collaborative and supportive atmosphere, where group discussion and participation is encouraged. When Sirish Nath faces a hiccup, another trainee assists him.

Success! The engine starts chugging and Sirish Nath Ram has passed the test! His peers and Tiwari ji stand around him, happy to have successfully completed the training of one more operator for Husk Power Systems.

___

Keya Madhvani is a Business Associate at Acumen Fund. Follow her on Twitter @keyamadhvani

Comments

Four Emerging Leaders Building the Future of Pakistan

With 60% of Pakistan’s population living under less than a dollar a day, the external narrative of Pakistan is characterised by what the country lacks; a lack of security, a lack of women’s rights, a lack of access to education, and the list goes on. What this narrative ignores are the individuals who work tirelessly to plug those gaps. From human rights to education to food security, Acumen Pakistan Fellows are affecting change through organizations committed to tackling poverty. Their work is truly inspiring, promising a hopeful future for Pakistan. Here are four fellows that are building this future for Pakistan and come together periodically to share learning experiences and grow as leaders. Through five seminars, the fellows have strengthened skills of adaptability, communication, empathy and problem solving through listening. If you are committed to creating change in your community, apply now to be an Acumen Pakistan Fellow. The deadline is 29 September. [Read More]

Acumen Partners with AlphaSights to Better Access Global Expertise

In our work investing in social enterprises that deliver critical goods to the poor, there is a substantial amount of work to evaluate each investment opportunity. A critical part of the diligence process, particularly when it comes to emerging markets, is speaking with industry experts who can provide reliable information about sector trends, market dynamics and public policy – all of which affect our evaluation of potential investment opportunities. [Read More]

DE-BUNKING THE BURDEN MYTH: IMPACT DATA GOES LEAN

Our manifesto begins, “it starts by standing with the poor.” Yet for good reasons, the sector has found it challenging to measure which customers are actually being served through social impact investments – getting accurate data on incomes is notoriously difficult and the logistical challenge and cost of conducting surveys in person prohibitive. [Read More]

Questions for Aspiring Leaders

Bavidra Mohan, Acumen’s India Fellows Manager, attended this years Aspen IDEAS festival as a Scholar. The Scholarship program was established to invite guests from around the world to bring a diverse set of experiences, voices and perspectives to the rich conversations that take place at the IDEAS festival each year. [Read More]

Give Impact Investing Time and Space to Develop

Impact investing has captured the world’s imagination. Just six years after the Rockefeller Foundation coined the term, the sector is booming. An estimated 250 funds are actively raising capital in a market that the Global Impact Investing Network estimates at $25 billion. Giving Pledge members described impact investing as the “hottest topic” at their May 2012 meeting, and Prime Minister David Cameron extolled the potential of the sector at the most recent G8 summit.  Sir Ronald Cohen and HBS Professor William A. Sahlman describe impact investing as the new venture capital, implying that it will, in the next 5 to 10 years, make its way into mainstream financial portfolios, unlocking billions or trillions of dollars in new capital. [Read More]

10 Books We’re Reading This Summer

What are you reading? It is a common question here at Acumen, an organization full of avid readers constantly trading favorite book titles that discuss leadership, impact, development and branding. Here are 10 stellar books we’re reading this summer. These books and others provide a framework of thinking, a spark of new ideas, a platform for debate. So, what are you reading? [Read More]

How Acumen Brought Back my Fire

Eda is an East Africa Regional Fellow from Nairobi, Kenya and is the Founder and Director of Halisi Trust, an organization that seeks to challenge the vices that plague society and encourage transformational development in Kenya’s youth. When Eda applied for the East Africa Fellows Program, she felt disillusioned and stuck. Below, Eda discusses how Acumen’s Regional Fellowship Program brought back her fire. Now, Eda has engaged nearly 6,000 people through outreach events and the Mkenya Halisi movement continues to grow. Acumen is currently accepting applications for the next class of East Africa Fellows. APPLY TODAY! [Read More]

Imagining the world as it could be

Christine Gitau is an East Africa Fellow and an enterprise coach at Craft Afrika, which provides business support services to craft entrepreneurs, enabling them build viable and thriving businesses in Kenya. At Acumen we often use the term “Moral Imagination” when talking about leadership. Christine wrote a reflection on how this concept has shifted her thinking. We could not be more proud of what she is building! [Read More]

How two Acumen Fellows are disrupting the education model in India

Whether its running youth soccer programs, providing vocational training services, or transforming the education system in India, Acumen India Fellows are driving real change in their communities.  Abbas Dadla and Abhilasha Sinha are India Fellows who are addressing the teacher shortage in India through the use of technology and peer collaboration. Find out what they are building below.  If you have grit, resilience and a commitment to creating change in your community in India, East Africa or Pakistan, we encourage you to apply for the Regional Fellowship Program! [Read More]