Envirofit India’s CEO and Managing Director, Asia, Harish Anchan along with Sales Director, Atul Joshi and Director of Communications and Social Media, Priya Thyagaraj, recently had the pleasure of hosting the new India head of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, Supriya (Riya) Kumar as well as the Regional Director, Market Development at the United Nations Foundation, Arijit Basu.
By Priya Thyagaraj
We met Riya and Arijit in Aurangabad, a five-hour drive from our office in Pune, Maharashtra. We wanted to offer them a holistic picture of our operations in India and talk about our SMAAART 360™ business model before traveling out in the field to Paithan. We would close out the day with a visit to our factory in Aurangabad.
Paithan is a city of contrast. Relatively urban homes and markets are set against small homes with herds of buffaloes tethered outside, and hand-operated looms with rich silks in their dark interiors. This city is known for its glorious, hand-woven silks, with silk sarees from Paithan often selling for tens of thousands of rupees, and prized for events such as weddings.
These contrasting economic realities understandably come with differing choices for food preparation. Some homes have, and consistently use LPG connections, while some still use the traditional chulha – the earthen or brick stoves used to prepare a family’s meals each day. Chulha stoves are inefficient and smoky, as easily evidenced by the long-blackened walls in many kitchens.
Other homes, like the first one we visited, have made a smarter choice by opting for Envirofit India’s improved biomass cookstove, the PCS-1, purchased with the help of micro-finance. Like many in the region, the home has both an LPG connection and an improved biomass cookstove. The homeowner uses gas when he needs to prepare quick and easy meals, such as when guests come over. The PCS-1, however, is the first choice for food preparation and has been for over two years.
As we watch the lady of the home prepare tea, it’s an interesting illustration of how well our stove is designed to meet the specific requirements of Indian kitchens. The PCS-1’s pot supports easily grip a wide variety of utensils, and the sturdy cast iron plate still looks virtually new despite heavy usage.
Thanking our host, we leave and then pick our way through the rain as we head towards our second stop. We walk down a narrow corridor and are invited into the main living space where we smell the deliciousness of food before we meet the cook, Amina Bibi. She’s dressed in a sari primarily the color of turmeric, a warm complement to her easy smile.
Amina Bibi has owned her PCS-1 for about a year and a half and her conversation with Riya prompted a wonderfully unscripted moment. Pausing while cooking her greens, she twinkles at her visitors.
“You know,” she laughs, “I’ve just broken down my traditional chulha. I don’t need it or use it anymore. It’s the same taste for my food – this stove is all I use and all I need. I don’t even need LPG.”
Amina had her “Aha!” moment a few months into using her stove, when she realized how much free time she was gaining as a result of its faster cooking times. This makes us all smile and reflect on the need to continually nurture champions of behavioral change within a community. Champions like Amina Bibi – women who have made a conscious decision to cook healthier and, in the process, made a clean break with tradition.
Visiting the factory and testing lab is the punctuation mark for our day. Fresh orders mean the production line is humming along, and Riya and Arijit are able to see first-hand the stoves being built that they just saw being used in the field. Arijit, in his own words, calls the trip a ‘value added and enriching tour’.
As we drive back towards Pune, I am glad to have seen the genuine difference in people’s lives that Envirofit stoves make. Visiting the field helps us understand the challenges our customers face, and gives us a deeper appreciation for the different communities we get to work in.
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