New Ventures worked with GIZ, to research partnerships between social enterprises and larger organizations to develop business models in clean energy access. New Ventures also convened workshops targeted at helping companies with existing infrastructure in rural areas and companies trying to marry CSR initiatives with business interests in rural energy access markets to interact with social enterprises working in these areas. The project was done under the Renewable Energy Component of the Indo-German Energy Programme (IGEN-RE) which is a bilateral technical co-operation measure between the German Federal Ministry for Economic Co-operation and Development (BMZ) and MNRE. The IGEN-RE Programme aims to promote energy access through RE technologies.

These resources will help managers in both social enterprises and larger organizations to work with each other.

Partnership themes

Partnerships between social enterprises and larger organizations currently fall under the following five themes:

  • CSR theme: Large corporations can channel their CSR funds into energy and water projects managed by social enterprises or NGOs. This type of partnership is the most typical partnership type.
  • Marketing & distribution theme: Large corporations with household products, agricultural commodities and farm equipment have created vast marketing and distribution networks extending across states. On the other hand, smaller social enterprises with operations focusing on a few districts or states have created last mile networks. Large corporations and enterprises with clean energy and water solutions have started leveraging these networks.
  • Technology & product portfolio theme: Technology leaders with renewable energy and clean water solutions have now started developing appropriate technology for the mass markets. They are partnering with social enterprises to take these technologies and products to market.
  • End user financing theme: MFIs and some foundations have partnered with social enterprises to test innovative end-user/trade financing models. These financing models help obviate the relatively higher capital costs for the clean energy product and services.
  • Enterprise financing and development theme: Social enterprises with clean energy product, services and water solutions require enterprise financing to pilot and scale up operations. Foundations have supported smaller enterprises with financing in the critical early high risk stage. In addition, large corporations can support the smaller enterprises in developing their business model. Such partnerships though few and far have the highest impact.

These partnerships are critical. It is common knowledge that social enterprises working in the clean energy and water access sectors face the challenge of financing, marketing and distribution. Large corporations have to generate sustainable growth ideas. The lessons from the partnerships provide answer to the challenges faced by both types of organizations.

Partnership Examples

Existing partnerships that fall under the themes identified above include:

Theme/ Partnership between

Large Organization

Social enterprises/small organizations

CSR to fund projects

Aditya Birla Group

Crux Power – Canyon Consulting

ACC, UltraTech Cement


Fullerton India

E-Hands Energy



Marketing & distribution


Greenlight Planet

Fullerton India

E-Hands Energy

Sahaj e-village


Technology & product portfolio

Bosch Solar Energy

Gram Oorja, Husk Power

Fullerton India

E-Hands Energy

End-user financing

Fullerton India

Greenlight Planet, Envirofit, E-Hands Energy


Barefoot Power

Enterprise development

Shell Foundation

Envirofit, Intellegrow

Companies may combine several elements across these themes to develop partnerships. For instance Fullerton India combines the themes of CSR, marketing & distribution, and the end-user financing.

CSR to fund projects

NGOs and social enterprises have started working with corporates to channel CSR funds into the right project/ project portfolio.

Crux Power, the EPC arm of Canyon Consultancy that provides turn-key services for Renewable Energy projects has partnered with Aditya Birla Group to set up a model solar village in Orissa under the CSR initiative of Aditya Birla Group. They have provided 34 houses with SHLs, 40LED solar lights, biomass cookstoves, solar water pumps and solar water purifiers. Crux Power is executing projects in Madhya Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra and Jharkhand. Crux Power has also partnered with Sewa International and Government of Orissa for rural projects.

Envirofit, an improved cookstove company works with cement companies such as ACC and UltraTech Cement. The cement companies purchase energy products for the families of workers and local communities.

Fullerton India Credit Company, one of India’s largest Non Banking Finance Company has a strong rural reach. Fullerton India has partnered with E-Hands Energy, a solar and micro wind turbine company to power up schools as a part of its CSR program.

TERI (The Energy and Resources Institute) has partnered with PSUs (like Power Finance Corporation, Rural Electrification Corporation, State Bank of India, Gas Authority of India Limited, Railway Vikas Nigam Limited) and private companies (ICICI, Indus Tower) to raise funding for “Lighting a billion lives” initiative.

Marketing and distribution

Greenlight Planet, a solar product company has entered into partnership with oil major Total to sell solar powered lanterns in Africa. Total also sells d.light and Schneider solar lanterns. Total uses their service stations, cooking gas outlets for the distribution of solar lanterns. Greenlight Planet is exploring similar relationships with oil marketing companies in India.

Fullerton India partners with larger organizations such as Godrej for cattle feed, Eureka Forbes and Ion Exchange (for water filters).

Sahaj e-Village, has a network of more than 24,500 CSCs (Common Service Centers) across the six Sahaj states - Assam, Bihar, Orissa, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. These CSCs offer more than 30 services for the rural population (such as railway tickets, PAN cards, examination services and so on) Sahaj has sales and distribution projects for solar products in rural India. Sahaj has entered into a partnership with d.light and has sold 1, 25,375 solar units in FY 2012-13 across the six Sahaj states.

Technology and product portfolio

Bosch Solar Energy, a leading global manufacturer of solar modules, has partnered with Gram Oorja, a decentralized renewable energy company to set up and operate a high capacity solar micro grid in Darewadi Village in Maharashtra. Bosch Solar had planned to do three such units in India and has been able to set up two: the other has been set up in Bihar in partnership with Husk Power, India’s leading micro grid company. The third planned unit in Tamil Nadu is awaiting local regulatory clearances.

Fullerton India is partnering with E-Hands Energy to power up its rural branches with solar/solar wind systems. Using E-Hands Energy’s products/solutions, Fullerton India has powered 12 branches, as on July 2013.

End-user financing

To enable adoption of clean technology products, Fullerton India offers merchandise loans. Fullerton India has partnered with Greenlight Planet, Envirofit and E Hands Energy to finance the sale of the clean energy products to rural customers.

Barefoot (BFP) has partnered with ESAF (Evangelical Social Action Forum), a leading microfinance NBFC to install two Solar School charging stations. The students can pay Rs.3-5/charging to charge their desk lamps until they purchase the lamps l. Barefoot Power, manufacturer and distributer of solar lighting products and solar phone charging services plans to expand their existing solar school charging model to include 18 other stations with a grant from Osprey Foundation.

Enterprise development

Shell Foundation, a charity that supports sustainable development, supports entrepreneurial enterprises across the value chain. It co-founded Envirofit in 2007 and supported Husk Power Systems in its early phase. Shell Foundation has also set up Project Dharma, a last mile distribution network and Intellegrow to provide debt financing to social enterprises.

Opportunities for social enterprises within initiatives of large organizations

Existing initiatives provide opportunities of partnership in two very key areas: appropriate technology development and skills development.


Large Organization

Activities that create opportunities for partnerships

Technology and product portfolio

Bayer Material Sciences

Has agriculture post processing, waste management and affordable housing technology


Has micro-grid technology

Franklin Electric

Has solar pumping solutions

Schneider Electric

Has solar pumping solutions

Skills development

Schneider Electric

Has electrician training and entrepreneurship development solutions

Technology and product portfolio

Large corporations like Bayer, ABB, Franklin Electric, and Schneider Electric are bringing specific technology solutions that can find application in areas not connected to the grid.

Bayer Material Science, has developed a low cost small volume cold storage that can be manufactured with locally available material. It uses considerably lesser energy than conventional cold storages, can maintain the required temperature and humidity without grid electricity for up to 6 hours. Bayer also wants to make available a solar dryer that increases process efficiency while reducing wastes. The other appropriate technologies of Bayer is technology that allows locally available agro-waste and biomass to be converted to particle boards at the local level and low cost housing material. Bayer has been working with NGOs such as Assist to take some of these technologies to market and is actively interested in supporting partners to take these technologies to the market. There is scope for a bottom-line oriented social enterprises to partner with Bayer.

ABB, has developed micro-grid technology to meet a demand of 300kW and above. They plan to take these solutions to off-grid rural areas for community level projects. India has several micro-grid companies who would benefit from this technology solutions.

Franklin Electric, a leading global provider of complete water systems and fueling systems has a solar pumping solution that they want to introduce to rural markets in India.

Schneider Electric also has solar water pumps ready for pilot testing with the help of entrepreneurs.

Skills development

Schneider Electric Foundation has an education employment, entrepreneurship programme which can be leveraged by entrepreneurial organizations. Schneider Foundation has a village electrician training programme and also supports these electricians to run their own micro enterprises.