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Amit, co-founder and CEO at Oorja, tells us about his passion to empower rural communities in India

“By championing decentralized energy systems I hope to increase renewables in India’s energy mix and empower rural communities to unlock lasting socio-economic change, and build climate resilient agriculture.” Amit Saraogi

The decision to pursue this project to empower rural communities stems in part from my life experiences, the resulting sensitivity and responsiveness to concerns of community development, and the desire to leverage my prior education and diverse work experience in a meaningful pursuit professionally. I grew up alongside a large population living in extreme poverty, without access to basic infrastructure and services of quality education, healthcare, clean energy, safe drinking water, sanitation and livelihood opportunities. To me it is unacceptable that despite rapid economic growth nearly one-third of the Indian population at the bottom of the pyramid subsists on less than $2 a day, enduring serious deprivations and struggles with the financial resources to procure basic services. Such widespread economic inequality and social and economic exclusion has often caused me deep distress, ingraining in me a strong sense of socially aware citizenry and a keen desire to be a social change agent.

I also recognize climate change as humankind’s one of the many critical challenges and its effects are seriously threatening livelihood, food and energy security, health and water supply and increasing the risks of violent conflicts and political instability. There is inextricable and obstinate link between global warming and poverty. Thus, to me, climate change is a development and equity issue as the poorest in the global South are most vulnerable, share its burden disproportionately and are least equipped to withstand its devastating impacts. The scale of the predicament is enormous and there is need for immediate and urgent action. This compels me to find sustainable solutions to reduce GHG emissions and build climate resilient communities.

Therefore, I pursued a graduate degree firmly rooted in poverty alleviation to better understand the underlying causes and consequences of poverty and how it can best be reduced. Research projects with UNICEF and other voluntary endeavors have also prompted me to extend my localized commitments to reach out more widely. Furthermore, a fellowship in social entrepreneurship exposed me to the excellent work aided by technology and innovations being done to alleviate social problems. As a result, I am convinced innovative, affordable, sustainable and scalable market-based approaches have the power to find solutions to the most obstinate social challenges.

Grounded in this belief, I now seek to be a social entrepreneur to provide critical goods and services that empower underserved populations to have control over their own lives, make decisions and choices for themselves, exercise their rights, fulfill their aspirations and live with dignity. I also hope to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and increase renewables in India’s energy mix for sustainable development.

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