Traditional mud-chulhas/ indoor open fires, lie at the heart of the Rural-India. But, Did You Know? Contributing 2% to the world’s climate change, the chulhas result in 4 million deaths per annum of which quarter deaths occur in India alone. Apart from having a negative impact on the environment, they also hamper the health of the women. With almost 70% of the Indian homes cooking with primitive mud stoves, burning firewood and cow dung; families get exposed to harmful smoke and are prone to various diseases. 

In an episode of sustain talks, a passionate change maker, Kailash Lohar, interviewed the Co-Founder of Greenway Grameen Infra Pvt Ltd, India's largest manufacturer of biomass cook stoves, Mr. Ankit Mathur who is a technology enthusiast and loves to get involved in understanding them and innovating products.

“You need to engage more with your community members & that doesn’t really just include the people around you, it includes the people that you think you’ll have an impact on, in the larger sense of the world. So if you think that there’s a product or service that can really help people living in northeast India; I would say that, then you should go there & get feedback from them. And know your project idea while taking the feedback from the customers. If there are changes to be made, to do. Focus on the customer and that’ll not stop you from compromising while delivering to them! And that’s what will eventually lead to success”, explained Mr Ankit Mathur.

A man with the vision of changing the way rural Indians cook, Mr. Mathur manufactures stoves which are a modern replacement for traditional mud -chulhas. But, what drove an IIM Ahemdabad graduate, not take up a job; instead be a producer of cook-stoves? And why would anyone be willing enough to pay for a stove when traditional mud-chulhas are available for free?

In his earlier days, the change-preneur went around doing a lot of things which continuously took him back to the rural- India. Seeing people cook on mud- chulhas, having an adverse effect not only on their health but also on the surroundings, Mr. Mathur, thought of manufacturing ‘Greenway Cook Stoves’ and improve the lives and cooking-style of rural households. 

Greenway Stoves are a modern-replacement for mud-chulhas that save 65% of fuel, replaces village clay furnaces, reduces wood consumption by 50% and reducing 70% of smoke emission. A higher combustion efficient stove, its designed in a way to burn the smoke in a better manner and transfer most of the heat to a cooking pot than releasing it in the air. Having managed to sell more than one million stoves in Nepal, India, and parts of Africa since its inception, they are India's largest biomass producer. Another interesting technology developed by them is, Jugnu. It converts unused heat produced e.g. heat produced by stoves, into electricity which, then can be used to charge batteries, mobile phones or provide light to the people staying in areas with no electricity! Apart from this, the organization also designs and distributes other consumer goods to the rural population in India and elsewhere.

“We believe in tailored made stoves in order to address ever problem efficiently and impact one household at a time. We also try to launch products at low cost and also collaborate with partners who have relevant customer base. Little Sun is one such product (a small solar lamp) that is not designed by us but we distribute it within urban segments and also the far off-grid areas we work in”, says Mr. Mathur

The decision to quit the predictable path of corporate sector and address India’s ignored and ever rising problem, has made them one of the major social enterprises in India. They found a gap and bridged the urban-rural divide in a sustainable and responsible way. In the journey of changing the rural-scenario, we can contribute by gifting a stove, spreading the word and help make meals healthier and happier with Greenway Stoves.

By : Riya Nathe