With more than 400 million people living in India without access to electricity, RMIT alumnus Alexie Seller is making it her mission to turn on the lights.
Miles away from the electrical grid and with only kerosene lamps to keep darkness at bay, many Indian families are forced to suffer polluted air and significant health risks for lights so low you can’t even read by them.
But Seller and her band of “pollinators” are helping these families gain access to modern, affordable and life-changing technology.
Seller co-founded non-profit Pollinate Energy while studying her Master of Engineering (Sustainable Energy) and just three years later the company is already operating out of three top-tier cities in India.
“We saw people in India that needed help that no one was helping,” Seller said.
“We started this business to solve this grassroots problem and to work directly with families who needed it and realised just how many people in other Indian cities were in a similar position.”
Pollinate works at training and empowering local entrepreneurs, or “Pollinators”, to go door-to-door in slum communities, selling, installing and servicing solar lights.
But the light is now shining on Pollinate after the start-up was recently selected as the Australian finalist in Chivas Regal’s The Venture, a worldwide competition focused on rewarding innovative businesses that solve global challenges.
Having made the final, Pollinate is now in the running to win a significant share of the $1,000,000 award money.
Seller said the difference the grant could make would be hugely significant for the scope of their work across the country and for the communities who still need help.
“We’ve never had that kind of money in one go before and this is pretty huge,” Seller said.
“It also comes at a really pivotal time because we’re moving into a fourth city by the middle of the year and have expectations to move again much faster next year.
“$250,000 is basically the funding we’d need to reach our next five cities.”
Pollinate is competing against 26 other start-ups and until 12 June, you can vote for the non-profit to make sure they’re awarded the money they need.
Seller is optimistic for Pollinate’s chances, citing the trail they’ve already blazed since starting the company.
"We’ve already achieved so much and are right on track to where we want to be,” she said.
“There’s no stopping Pollinate, we are a well-oiled machine that is geared for growth.”
In July The Venture final will take place in New York to decide the fate of the remaining share but until then, Seller says it’s been amazing to see so many people rally behind their cause.
“It’s really exciting to see that growth and to see people surround this idea, to stand beside it and rally for it, and make sure it works,” she said.
Success begins here: Find out more about the Master of Engineering (Sustainable Energy).
Story: Sean O’Malley