Despite their proximity to urban areas, such as Bangalore, many rural villages in the Indian state of Karnataka are disconnected from the grid. Without a reliable lighting source, most activities in villages are restricted to daytime hours. As a result, adults are unable to work at night and children are unable to study, causing many to fall behind in work and school. For those that rely on kerosene lamps, fuel expenditures consume a large portion of monthly income, and long-term exposure to smoke and fumes lead to chronic health problems.


Light Up Karnataka is a joint initiative between TEL and ESSMART Global to power rural homes with point-of-use solar lighting solutions. ESSMART has an existing distribution network of shopkeepers for their array of products. Through this network, we are working alongside ESSMART to pilot training schemes that empower the female shopkeepers to sell solar lanterns while also being culturally appropriate in their communities.

Our Role

Upon engaging the organization through a detailed needs assessment, TEL initially identified and procured demo solar lighting solutions from five different providers for field testing and product focus groups. TEL also led fundraising efforts to purchase inventory and fund the entrepreneurship training program. As well as participating in the design of the program, TEL is currently the lead on monitoring and evaluation. The pilot program began in 2019 and continues through 2020 with a detailed program evaluation.


In phase 1, with centralized training sessions offered, the majority of attendees were men. This is believed to be due to cultural norms, where the men are tasked with “business” related activities and the women with “domestic” activities, despite being co-owners of their businesses. In the design of phase 2, we are piloting an approach that brings shorter and more practical training sessions directly to the places of business, i.e. retail shops. The topics include marketing, product demos, and basic book-keeping.

Location: Karnataka, India

Launch date: Jan 2017

Beneficiaries: 265


Project Status: active
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