‘Green’ entrepreneurs are people who pursue business goals keeping in mind the sustainable development of society. They are actually change agents, who are showing the path to others as to how sustainability can be kept in mind even when prioritising profit maximisation, says TERI University registrar Rajiv Seth.
A person who is willing to launch a new venture or enterprise and accept full responsibility for the outcome.
Putting these together, a green entrepreneur is someone who starts a business to make or offer a product, service, or process that benefits the environment.
What do they do?
It was the devastating tsunami of 2004 that got Anil Sethi thinking about commercialising solar cell technology that had the potential to save countless lives.
The CEO of a Switzerland-based company, Flisom, which manufactures thin-film solar cells, Seth says “it was the day after Christmas when I heard the news about the tsunami that hit Indonesia and claimed over 250,000 victims. Many of these were children and many of the deaths were not caused by the waves but due to lack of clean water and medicines afterwards.” What was tragic, says Sethi, was that the medicines and drugs were available but due to a complete shutdown of communication facilities because of power disruption in the affected areas, the emergency response agencies had no idea where to take the medicines.
At that point, Sethi realised that the power his company was creating could save countless lives should such disasters occur. “This was the driver for my eventual full-time involvement in starting and running the business operations of the company, since I believe that even failure in this would be preferable to succeeding in a mid-management position in a large corporation,” says Sethi.
What got him interested in clean technology that harnesses the power of the sun was a chance meeting with a group of leading scientists in thin-film solar cell technology, including Dr AN Tiwari, a Ph.D from IIT Delhi in photovoltaics, who is continuing research work in Switzerland and is a world record holder in creating the thinnest of film solar cells with 14% efficiency.
For Seth, the cause is key. A CA and ICWA from Nagpur, he did his MBA from the London Business School in the UK and then joined a start-up in Switzerland and went on to IBM in a business development role. The meeting with the scientists changed the course of his life. “Everyone talks of clean energy from alternative sources for environmental benefits. The only point that will drive end-users to go in for clean energy is if it is cost-competitive or cheaper than electricity from nuclear and fossil fuels. Today it’s three to four times more expensive,” he says.
Large-scale thin-film solar cell production, Sethi hopes, will mean cheaper power which can be made accessible to people in the remotest of areas and connect them to the rest of the world.
When asked if there is money to be made in this business, Sethi responds, “More than the money, this is a new industry which has the potential to change geo-politics, since today energy is centered in specific geographies and most conflicts in the world are oil-related. With photovoltaic ( PV) technology, end-users would no longer have to depend on governments or electricity utilities for their electricity supply. They will be able to generate electricity from their rooftops!”
It’s people who count for Seth. PV would enable effective communication in disaster-struck areas. “In addition, energy from the sun is completely renewable and clean. It would help in driving growth and development without leaving carbon or other harmful emissions, thereby leaving a better and cleaner planet for our children,” adds the father of two.
- Excellent entrepreneurial and managerial skills
- Good communication skills to tell others about your great idea
- Analytical Skills
- Leadership Skills
How do I get there?
The Centre for Environment Education and the Teri University offer programmes related to the environment, and to sustainable development. B-schools are also looking towards greening their curricula. Teri University’s MBA in business sustainability attempts to incorporate sustainability issues into each course and specialisation.