Asako Takeda, Partner, from Kolkata, India
In July 2011, accompanying my husband’s transfer on the job, I moved to Kolkata from Tokyo where they’re still recovering and dealing with the aftermath of the earthquake which happened two and a half years ago. Kolkata was under the governance of the Communist party for almost forty years (it has changed since 2011, but Communist power is still strong), and as a result, it was left far behind economic development in India. Recently, a small Japanese restaurant opened and is becoming an oasis for 20 or so Japanese business people from Japan who are staying here. At the beginning of the 20th Century, the first Japanese school was established here in Kolkata, and the connection between Japan and Kolkata was closer, but it gradually became less in the 1970s until now the number of the Japanese society registration is only around 80, much smaller than the communities in Delhi, Mumbai, or Bangalore. In Delhi, for example, Japanese Society counts 2,000 members.
In this Partner’s Essay, I would like to tell you about the electric power situation in India.
“Blackout is Not Unusual, Even in the Big City.”
India is a vast country with few fuel resources. Therefore, the supply of electricity is perpetually lacking. Even in the 5-star hotel in Delhi, there are frequent blackouts. Hotels and expensive apartments have their own electric generators and they can recover in a few minutes, but typical families experience the blackout much longer, sometimes a few hours every day in the suburbs. Blackouts happen more frequently in the rainy seasons.
“Electric Bill is High, and Air Conditioners Guzzle Electricity.”
Since living here, I have been astonished by the electric bill. It is almost as expensive as Japan. Especially in the summer and during the rainy months when we use air conditioner, the bill is four times more than the winter and the dry season. In my household, last June we paid 15,000 yen. Even this is lower than the other Japanese families, and some families are paying 30,000 to 40,000 yen per month. In the hotels and restaurants, on the other hand, the air conditioners are set to 18°C, and you freeze in 30 minutes; there is no concept of conservation. It is a country of extremes.
“Light Bulbs Burn Out Because of the Unstable Voltage.”
Voltage in India is 22V and is very high, and it sparks when connecting a PC with the universal standard plug (it can be scary). On top of the high voltage, the voltage is unstable when distributed, and often the light bulb, which costs 20 Indian Rupee burns out with a loud bang and sparks. When changing to a new one and turning on the switch, the same thing happens. For families in general, a 20-Rupee light bulb is not cheap. Many families may spend their nights in the dark without changing the bulb because of this.
“400 Million People Live Without Electricity”
Currently, India’s population is 1.3 billion (it is said to be close to 1.4 billion), and yet 400 million people (some say 5 million) people live without electricity. This number is three times more than the population of Japan and more than 30% of the total population in India. Electricity infrastructure, of course, is promoted by the central and local governments, but the majority of the effort is made for commercial business in the metropolitan area and big manufacturing industry, and never reaches the ordinary citizens. It goes without saying that as a result, the remote areas’ electrification is further delayed.
“Solar Electric Generation as BOP Business”
In getting involved in the social investment activities of ARUN in India, I learned that many entrepreneurs are starting up various venture businesses in rural India to improve electricity distribution. Such businesses also exists in Cambodia, and ARUN may be investing in the near future. I hope you become interested in solar power and BOP business in India as well.