Rural Indian women are breaking the glass ceiling to enter the cleantech-enabled livelihood space.
Green technologies, such as solar dryers, solar refrigerators, biomass-based cold storage and many others, offer an opportunity for them to earn an income, reduce drudgery and be a part of India's energy transition.
However, it is essential to leverage rural women's momentum to adopt these technologies and scale them to millions. For this, an assured outreach channel supporting cleantech reaching within their premises and providing live product demonstrations to make an informed decision will play a vital role.
Here's how you can bring technology closer to rural women
One such channel, hyperlocal events, was leveraged by Powering Livelihoods (PL), a joint initiative by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) and Villgro Innovations Foundation. We supported Devidayal Solar, a solar refrigerator manufacturing enterprise, in conducting hyperlocal events in women-dominated value chain regions in Rajasthan.
Partnerships with state-level initiatives such as Rajasthan Grameen Aajeevika Vikas Parishad (Rajeevika) helped the initiative reach out to 450 local rural women during the event. Rajeevika, to promote the adoption of solar refrigerators, provided a 50 per cent end-user financing loan to 50 women participants to purchase the units.
Hyperlocal marketing events, such as melas and exhibitions at the block/district level, help bridge the accessibility barrier, especially for women.
It reduces the mobility challenges of travelling long distances on their own. The first-hand experiences of the products assist in building trust in technologies and generating buy-in among rural women. At the local level, large groups such as Self Help Groups (SHGs) and Farmer Producer Company (FPOs) can be leveraged to bring prospective end-users in large numbers.
For this, the demo-unit model of demonstrating clean-energy-powered products to SHGs at hyperlocal marketing events can escalate technology adoption among women. Additionally, the first few buyers from these events also have a "multiplier effect" by making purchasing decisions for themselves and promoting word-of-mouth marketing in their locality.
Beyond hyperlocal demos and promotion, technologies with high capital expenditure also require the buy-in from financiers and government stakeholders to provide affordable credit facilities to women customers. Inviting representatives from financing institutions and relevant government initiatives to hyperlocal events helps in multiple ways. Through the event, they become aware of the products, can experience them, and connect with potential customers too.
"Promoting solar-based technologies via hyperlocal events and increasing the adoption rate by providing demo units creates excitement among rural women. I am thankful to the Powering Livelihoods programme for providing this opportunity to the SHG women members from Udaipur and supporting them in improving their livelihoods via clean energy technologies," says Anil Pahadiya, District Project Manager, Rajeevika, Udaipur.
Hyperlocal events bring technology closer to women in rural India and amplify the adoption of innovative cleantech to generate sustainable livelihoods. However, for successful sales conversion, the enterprises must create a dedicated sales team to follow up on the leads generated during the event and resolve queries. To integrate more rural women in cleantech and value chains, the ecosystem needs to start thinking differently and go beyond conventional marketing strategies.
Prachi Singhal also contributed to the piece. Mousumi Kabiraj is a research analyst, and Singhal is a gender specialist consultant at the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), an independent, not-for-profit research organisation.