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I don't know if this is in your databases but I just spent a couple of hours at MIT listening to African, American, and Indian partners with Amy Smith's D-Lab. Harish Hande of SELCO, Solar Electric L…

I don't know if this is in your databases but I just spent a couple of hours at MIT listening to African, American, and Indian partners with Amy Smith's D-Lab. Harish Hande of SELCO, Solar Electric Light Company, from Karnatika, India talked about his work. I've heard him before (and written about it athttp://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2008/11/7/144344/036 ) but this time he drilled deeper into what SELCO actually does.

They don't concentrate on the technology but on the community. They listen to what their customers, the poorest, need and try to find ways to supply them, for the long term. His greatest lesson came from a street vendor who said, "300 rupees a month is too expensive but 10 rupees a day I can afford." From that insight, SELCO developed their system of lending which seems to involve a daily payment rather than a monthly or quarterly payment.

He believes his business is in understanding what a street vendor needs as opposed to a home worker as opposed to a village farmer as opposed to a laundress. Harish Hande knows that the knowledge comes from the customer, the client, and he has to listen very, very hard. That's indigenous knowledge and it works on a NYC street or an Indian village. Get rid of your preconceptions and listen to the people you are trying to serve.

I got the chance to ask Harish a question as well. I asked him if he saw his work as an expression of Gandhian economics, something I've been studying over the last year. He said yes.

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