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Help them sit, in the driving seat
Story of role-model Harish Hande
Asha sells vegetables in the outskirts of Bangalore, from her hand-pushed cart.
Earlier, her working day would be over when it turned dark. It was also the time, when most people returning from work, purchase vegetables.
She was missing out on these customers.
She was able to rent our solar light for 10 rupees a day and showcase her produce to returning commuters, well after sunset.
She began to do much better.
Harish said, ‘I founded Selco in 1985 - a clean energy company aimed at serving the bottom of the economic pyramid.
Shankar - my colleague - started with us in 98. He began by serving coffee and cleaning tables.
I would nudge him to do more with himself. He began to attend computer classes from 6-8 AM every morning. Today he is one of our senior managers and manages 4 branches.
Selco empowers the poor to fix their situation, by themselves. Hopefully, it also shows how other businesses can do this too.
Raghu was our car driver. We could always count on him.
I took away his car keys one day and urged him to find something bigger for himself in Selco.
Today he handles Admin for us. He has built his own house too.
Selco is a humble place. It is the place for doers.
It provides well for our needs, but not for all our wants. Those who come in to work as us, stay on, because they resonate to the idea of what we do and how we do it.
In the last 25 years, we have grown to 850 and through all the economic ups and downs, have never fired anyone.
We lose maybe 5 people to attrition, every year.
The top 15 have not left us in 18 years. If someone has to leave, they usually leave in the first 3 months.
We have based ourselves on the idea that the under-privileged, who we serve, have to be equal stakeholders in figuring out what they can do and then putting it into action.
We were working with the blacksmith community on how they could do better for themselves.
We did not bring in a panel of experts to guide and train them, from an ivory tower.
Instead, we got them talking to each other. To share their concerns for the future.
An elder expressed the concern that the men did not want to inherit this work because it was physically back-breaking.
The bellows and hammers in use were 200 years old technology.
We worked with them to design better implements. It became easier, so much so, even women could join in.
The community made itself thrive.
This - to us - is the key to self empowerment. This is the dream, to which, we - at Selco - have dedicated ourselves.