Q and A with Hemant Chanrai (Founder of Azzura Solar and Bright Future Program)

Do you know that 66 million Indonesians live without basic access to electricity? Such condition severely impacting their life. Children are unable to read, write and study after the sun goes down, while families are plunged into virtual darkness. They then resort to kerosene lamps which emit harmful fumes and can potentially start a fire. Read our interview with the founder of an Indonesia based company that runs a wonderful initiative to do what they can to help these families.

Devisanthi Tunas from Green Asia Force talked to Hemant Chanrai, the man behind Bright Future Program and the founder of  Azzura Solar. The Bright Future Program is an initiative that aims to provide an opportunity for children to receive an affordable and sustainable source of light, giving them the ability to read write and study after nightfall via a solar power lamp. The program is funded by individuals and corporation who wish to use the initiative as a part of their CSR efforts.

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Studying after dark with a solar lamp (image credit: Azzura Solar)

GAF: Can you tell us about the background of Azzura Solar?

HC:  Azzura Solar is a solar power company based in Indonesia which provides solar powered generators and lighting systems for residential homes. We mostly provide plug-and-play systems which can be installed within 1 hour, with very little maintenance.

Seeing how Indonesia experiences regular power outages, Azzura Solar aimed to capitalize on solar energy as an alternative power source.

GAF: What do you think about public perception of solar energy in Indonesia?

HC: More and more home owners are inquiring about solar power, but converting those enquirers into sales has been slow due to the relatively low cost of power provided by PLN (government based power supply). The public still prefer the low cost of government subsidized power than any alternative. Over all, interest in solar power is growing, while many residents are waiting for government to intervene and subsidize the use and installation.

GAF: How did Azzura Solar start The Bright Future Program?

HC: Previously Azzura Solar used to sell solar power banks, which were used to charge mobile phones and tablets via sunlight. I had received an order for over 20 Power Banks from a customer living in Sukabumi, west java, who had mentioned to me that he needs these solar power banks, not to charge his phones with, but to power small LED lights. He experienced regular power outages and solar powered batteries where useful to carry around.

After realizing the potential that solar power banks could have on rural communities, we decided to create a program called, The Bright Future Program, specifically aimed at providing solar power for families living without access to electricity. By sourcing out affordable solar lamps and lighting systems, we were able to begin brightening homes in rural areas.

Azzura Solar lamp

Azzura Solar lamp (image credit: Azzura Solar)

GAF: Which areas in Indonesia have you done most of the installation? Why?

HC: Most of lamps and solar lighting kits have been installed and distributed in an area called Marga Mulya. An area located near the ocean in Banten. The reason why we chose that area specifically is because it suffered tremendous damage during the 2004 tsunami, leaving the area with infrastructural damage. Many homes have no sustainable source of lighting, meaning kids are unable to read write and study after sunset, and families are left in the dark once the sun goes down. Habitat for Humanity have done a tremendous amount of work in the area, and offer support for the Bright Future Program as well, making it an ideal area for us to operate.

 
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Latest invention from Azzura solar, a solar lamp made of used mineral water bottle. The plastic bottle acts as its bulb and helps to disperse light. This is a lighter and cost friendlier option of their solar lamps (image credit: Azzura Solar)

GAF: What is the biggest challenge in getting companies to participate in your initiative?

HC: The biggest challenge is convincing companies of the benefits solar lighting has on families living without electricity. Many corporations tend to participate in programs where returns are seen instantly, ie food drives, book drives and school building. Our program tends to think of rural development in the long term, where the effects of providing solar power lighting is felt over a longer period. Convincing corporations to participate in our program for the long run is one of our aims this year.

GAF: Has the program been successful in making people do away with kerosene lamps?

HC: Having supplied approximately 30 homes with solar power lighting, we have seen a 75% drop in the use of kerosene and oil lamp. The program has been successful, but we are still aiming for that ‘100%’ mark.

GAF:  What is in the pipeline for The Bright Future Program?

HC: 2015 is going to be a very busy year for us. We are currently raising money via Kitabisa.com to install several solar power generators / light systems in a village community area, as well as rolling out our new Bright Future Program, which will allow local residents to also borrow solar power lamps for Rp 3,000 (15 cents) per night. By allowing residents to borrow lamps themselves, they have access to a sustainable light source well within their budget.

For more information on Azzura Solar and The Bright Future Program please visit:

http://www.azzura-solar.com/

If you would like to be involved in this wonderful initiative please visit:

http://kitabisa.com/azzuraindo

About the author

Devisanthi Tunas is the co-founder of www.greenasiaforce.com, an online platform which promotes sustainability awareness and green building solutions in tropical context. She is a Singapore based architect.