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WEF Technology Pioneers interview

Anil Raj, OMC’s CEO and Co-founder, discusses what makes OMC unique, what makes an innovator, and how OMC improves the state of the world.

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Full transcript:

What makes OMC unique?

There’s this enormous problem in the world today and that’s the fact that out of 7 billion people on this planet, more than a billion people have never ever switched on a light bulb.

What’s unique about OMC is that we’re bringing electricity to places where there is no electric grid, and we’re doing it as an entirely commercial operation with an industrial approach.

We call it Micropower – small-scale, local and renewable energy.

In our home market of India, there are over 400 million people who go about their daily lives without electricity. And in the mobile industry, there are about 150,000 towers which don’t have power.

The only source of power for people and companies in these places is kerosene, diesel and other dirty fuels. We’re changing that by building small-scale, local Micropower Plants that extract energy from renewable sources – mainly from the sun – and then we supply this renewable energy to both rural communities and mobile networks.

We’re already supplying power to two of India’s largest telecom companies, and to more than 30,000 people. In just a few years, we’ll reach several million people.

In the process, we’ve also redesigned the way electricity is supplied. We’ve cut the cord, we’ve cut the wire entirely and made power portable, and we deliver packaged power to the doorsteps of our customers.

That’s how we’re unique.

What makes an innovator?

Innovation is all about solving problems. Ideally very large ones.

To me, the simplest definition of innovation is to take two existing things and combine them, and by doing so solving a problem.

We’ve taken energy and we’ve made it local. We’ve made it portable. We’ve taken power and we’ve made it small – Micropower.

We’re a young company, but we still supply energy to some of India’s largest telecom companies and to some of the world’s poorest people. So we’re combining industrial power with residential power.

It’s difficult to exactly define an innovator, but I think Justin Guay of The Sierra Club nailed it when he said “the world is full of great ideas, but empty of people who can make them happen.” That’s a pretty good definition – an innovator is someone with a great idea that also has the belief, the tenacity and the ability to make it happen.

How does OMC improve the state of the world?

The interesting thing with OMC is that while we’re a commercial company, you can also look at us as a very profitable CSR initiative. OMC positively affects the environment, it impacts the bottom lines of telecom giants, as well as rural people’s health and wallets.

We help reduce carbon emissions by many thousands of tons by eliminating the need for fossil fuel. We help telecom companies to operate profitably. And we finally give the transformative power of reliable energy access to the people who need it the most – our customers in rural communities. And they actually spend less money today on energy from OMC than what they do on dirty fuels like kerosene and diesel.

More than anything else, what drives us is to see this amazing socioeconomic transformation that energy access brings. Children finally able to read at night, do their homework, businesses that stay open longer, the hope and prosperity of all our local employees. It’s very encouraging and positive to see, but it’s also great business for everyone involved.

Now we’re at a point in history where we’re seeing a large-scale shift from fossil fuel to renewable energy. We’re also seeing a shift from centralized power production to smart and distributed power generation and distribution.

The future of energy is clearly decentralized. And we’re very happy, and fortunate, to both shape and be part of the Micropower movement.


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