Like a lot of Gujarati families, Shah’s parents too flew down to the States hoping for a better life for their kids. As luck had it, they indeed were able to provide them the best of the best. Raised in an affluent society of Scarsdale, New York, Ajaita graduated from the University of Tufts. She was all set to become an elite corporate lawyer in the most buzzing city of America. This was until she grew interested in microfinance.
Years back, in her native village of Rajasthan, Ajaita saw a five-year-old girl burning in a kerosene fire at her home. This was in 2008 when solar energy had not entered the rural market of India.
The picture stuck in her mind. These cases are not uncommon in India. In spite of the potential dangers, these kerosene lit lanterns are used. The blinded crannies of Indian villages hardly had a choice in the face of an absence of power grids in these areas. Ajaita packed her bags to come back to her village and start a movement. Shocked and taken aback, Ajaita’s parents were clueless on why would their daughter head back to a poor, developing country they left far behind years back.
Ajaita proudly declares herself as the black sheep of her family.
Barely out of college, she launched ‘Frontier Markets’ to provide a clean, safe and affordable source of energy to the north-western regions of Rajasthan.
Apparently, despite a growing demand for alternate source of power in the absence of grids, the government was unable to provide rural villages access to these sources.
The villagers were hesitant to purchase clean energy because of the lack of awareness and biased perceptions of solar products’ quality and sustainability. Ajaita sensed that there was clearly no trust in solar products. Hence, she started a unique distribution model whereby she partnered with local entrepreneurs and set up brick-and-mortar system while educating consumers. Brick and mortar system enabled locals to sell their products while educating them on a ground level. So far she has sold more than 85,000 solar products and set up 225 retail outlets to provide after-sale servicing.
The pitch darkness of Indian villages is lit up giving way for a developing country in a true sense.
Ajaita Shah today is the leading business woman to sell clean energy products. Earning a place in Forbes magazine’s Top 30 Under 30 Social Entrepreneurs, Ajaita’s story is such a heart-warming inspiration to all of us who aspire to make a difference in the world yet imagine our ambitions to be the very hurdles on our roads. She has proved how you can really combine both and be the light that inspires.