Cook stoves: Going beyond solar
While SELCO’s focus has been on solar energy, in 2008 the company started to expand into other energy-related businesses. The company hoped to leverage its extensive distribution system and reputation for selling solar equipment to selling other products.
The first effort at diversification came in the area of cookstoves. Most poor Indian households relied on wood-burning stoves. These stoves do not make efficient use of wood and generally send a great deal of smoke into the household, thereby presenting a health hazard. Working with small, innovative manufacturers, SELCO offered two cook stoves to its clients. The first, called the Leo, was designed by Prakti Design Lab, and burned biomass (such as wood). The stove is approximately 40% more fuel efficient, emits 70%-80% less smoke (than traditional cook stoves) and meets the cooking requirements of rural households. The second, called the Sarai cooker, was designed by Appropriate Rural Technology Institute in Pune. This stove (demonstrated in the video on this page) uses charcoal briquettes (manufactured from cast-off sugar cane harvest) or coal to heat food efficiently and safely.
Unlike solar energy, neither cook stove was completely emission-free. Nonetheless, SELCO believes that since the stoves reduced indoor air pollution and increased the quality of life of rural people, selling these devices was consistent with the mission of the company.