Here Harish and I begin a more philosophical discussion regarding the recent economic development of India.
SM: Of course the people you are dealing with are operating in a capital market, and they get rewarded by maximizing shareholder value. The solution you need does not exist. HH: The logic that we are doing it in Germany to help climate change is not terribly credible is all I am saying. Shareholder value is shareholder value. Let’s not confuse that with climate change!
SM: That is absolutely correct, at the priority level that is absolutely correct. Can you point us to other efforts in India and other countries in the poverty sector that are achieving significant impacts the way you are achieving? HH: If you are talking poverty sectors, then there are microfinance ventures which are working. In terms of energy services, there are unfortunately very few. Two years ago I wanted to have a small entrepreneurial workshop in India where we thought of bringing entrepreneurs together. We had a very hard time finding 12, and they were all in very, very early stages.
SM: Most will not scale to the extent you have. HH: Scaling becomes a question of liberating. If the end product costs $10, and they are selling it for $10, and they are not putting in the $5 cost it takes to reach the user because it is covered through a grant, and they do not have a sustainable model, because they are thinking products, not solutions.
SM: You have said that India is growing at 8% while simultaneously adding 100 Million people below the poverty line. Can you elaborate? HH: India opened up in 1992. Obviously any growth from 0 to 1 is infinite growth. There are very few people who are benefiting who have not already benefited originally.