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Charged by sun, reared by XLRI

Villagers love their cellphones but the dearth of electricity forces them to scout far and wide for a plug point to charge their handsets. What if they had a solar-powered charger instead?

A good idea makes good business sense, feels premier B-school XLRI, Jamshedpur.

XLRI, which inked an MoU in 2011 with Santa Clara University, California, for five years to manage and support the latter’s global social benefit incubator, has taken up its first official case to “incubate”.

IIT-Kharagpur mechanical engineering alumnus Amaleshwar Sinha (23), supported by his batch mate, metallurgical engineer Sourav Das (23), has designed a solar-powered cellphone charger that XLRI will help market.

Amaleshwar, who joined Tata Motors in 2011 immediately after passing from IIT, left in a few months to pursue his passion as an inventor full-time. He has named his project SuryOn and product Surya Apollo.

Sourav, who works with Tata Steel, has been a great “sounding board, critic and consultant of Surya Apollo”, Amaleshwar grinned.

Now, XLRI will incubate this product, which has great potential in rural and electricity-starved urban areas, long train and road journeys when phones go dead and so on.

“This incubation programme is to help new social entrepreneurs in the initial stages so that they can establish themselves. We have just started. We’ll be very choosy so that we can practically help entrepreneurs we select,” said Madhukar Shukla, chairperson of Social Entrepreneurship Trust and incubation programme coordinator.

XLRI under the incubation programme will provide infrastructure such as office address, seed funding, technical support in business plans, finance and network support.

Amaleshwar, who is over the moon at being XLRI’s first “chosen one”, said the project had started small, with savings.

He added: “I always wanted to work on sustainable energy. We felt electricity was a huge problem in rural areas, with charging cellphones a Herculean task. People go miles to get their phone charged at Rs 10 per hour. So, the ambition was to empower people with such a charger that does not need electricity.”

He added that Surya Apollo, priced at Rs 250, was suitable for Samsung, Nokia, Micromax and Chinese-made handsets.

Consignments of Surya Apollo have already gone to dealers in Daltonganj, Aligarh and Ghana.