A Double Challenge
Mr. Ramesh Kumar Nibhoria is concerned with three major problems in rural India. First, fossil fuels in kitchens and small industries cause a number of environmental and health problems. Second, they emit high levels of CO2. Burning post-harvest field residues produces smoke, harming both the environment and people in the area. Cutting wood for fuel depletes the forests. Third, lack of employment opportunities pushes rural youth to the cities, depriving the countryside of future entrepreneurs and threatening it with economic stagnation.
Mr. Nibhoria has adopted an entrepreneurial approach to both problems. Since 1990, he has been working in the area of biomass to energy conversion, striving to find sustainable green energy alternatives to fossil fuels in kitchens and micro industries. In 1999 he founded Nishant Bioenergy P Ltd (NBPL) to produce biomass pellet manufacturing plants and commercial stoves.
The first stove model, the Biomass Briquette Stove (Sanjha Chulha) had emission and heat control issues. The NBPL team continued innovating. In 2010 the company started developing biomass fuel pellet technology; by 2014 they had mastered the technology. NBPL’s workshop now manufactures small biomass pellet plants and pellet-fueled stoves. The smoke-free stoves, of industry standard design and performance, are suitable for commercial heating, cooking, and boiling. Operating costs benefit rural users, as biofuel costs less than fossil fuels.
NBPL has started franchising its products and services under the Green Enterprise (GE) name. It markets a key-in-hand operation with exclusive retail rights to a defined region. NBPL mentors the franchisee throughout the process of setting up the business: biomass pellet making; pellet stove installation, and troubleshooting. After that, the franchisee is fully equipped to operate the business independently.
Environmentally, GE is a winner, providing clean, environmentally-friendly service at competitive cost. Its benefits to users are clear.
Economically, the benefits are also clear. Within rural communities, local residents now find employment in each franchise’s pellet factory. The franchise has exclusive rights to supply fuel pellets for all pellet stoves in its franchise area. (The pellet stoves are provided to consumers free of cost, a powerful marketing tool.)
So far, GE has self-financed, operating frugally and marketing online through social media. It is now ready for scale up, through investment and grants, to a bigger factory and training centre to service thousands of small enterprises.
NBPL envisions huge possibilities to replicate the GE franchise throughout Asia and Africa.