How “ecosystem builders” in South Asia are critical to the clean energy transition

October 27, 2023

What happens when you bring three South Asian ecosystem builders together for the first time,  to design an event in India on energy and equity? Systems change!

Clean energy innovation in South Asia – a region that contains over a quarter of the world’s population – will be critical to addressing climate change and powering economic development. That’s why we brought together the first ever group of entrepreneur support organizations in the region – over 50 participants from Indian powerhouse “She Leads Bharat”,  through to local think tanks and NGOs.

The first ever ”Accelerate Energy & Equity Summit 2023 (AEES)” in South Asia, in collaboration with Climate Collective, and Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE), India  was designed to foster collaboration and drive meaningful change, and bring together  thought leaders, accelerators, incubators, policymakers, and stakeholders from the clean energy sector in the region.

From countless discussions and ideas, here are four takeaways we’re taking with us.


💡Equity is more than a template and checking the box.

As Entrepreneur Support Organizations (ESOs), we should use our platform to change the system to make entrepreneurship more inclusive. 

Today’s climate solutions are still not reaching rural India as quickly as they should and this is a missed opportunity. Women are disproportionately affected by climate change but they are also uniquely positioned to bridge the gap between market and community. In many ways, rural women in India are at the nexus of climate change – as household decision makers, as buyers of (climate) solutions, as farmers, and as entrepreneurs.

Ajaita Shah, social activist and founder of Frontier Markets and She Leads Bharat, gave an inspiring keynote on what it really takes to create an unapologetic gender agenda for clean energy in India. Her platform has introduced tailor-made solutions that have trained and enabled over 35,000 women in rural India to become digitally savvy entrepreneurs who bring quality clean energy products and services to their communities. Through Frontier Market’s platform, over 50 million products and services – related to homecare, health, agriculture, banking, and clean energy – were channeled to 1 million rural households since they launched in 2011.

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‘’There is an appetite for organizations to come together and learn from each other and try to build better… to think deeper on how we can contribute to the ESG/SDG goals… and thinking about local, gender, inclusivity and equity as an opportunity to really be able to make change more effectively’’ –  Ajaita S., Founder of Frontier Markets


💡How do we insert the climate agenda across social impact entrepreneurship programs across the region?

The most exciting part of the summit was our ‘Unconference’ format session where attendees chose small engaging groups to discuss the challenges faced today in the energy sector in South Asia and the various limitations of existing templates, and possible solutions.

In line with this year’s theme we identified a few topics that attendees got to choose, from monetizing climate impact metrics, to how livelihood ESOs can weave clean energy into existing programming to support an equitable transition.

Most of the entrepreneur support organizations are trying to integrate aspects of climate action into the kind of entrepreneurs they are working with, and also looking to integrate more equity and diversity into the work they are doing. When as asked about action items that ESO’s should be focussing on, Surabhi Rajagopal, Senior Manager, SELCO Foundation said:

‘’We’re all talking about justice, equity and inclusion… but we’ve not been able to crack the best ways of doing this. We need to capture the learnings from different approaches and see what works… and bring the conversation to government agencies, philanthropic institutions, CSR entities and impact investors’’

Surabhi Rajagopal, Senior Manager, SELCO Foundation


💡Equity should come from our work because we believe in it, not because a funder asks for it.

We heard from Nivisha Shah, Global Impact Manager at New Energy Nexus, about how to bring justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion into our ecosystem work in a truly meaningful way.

‘’It is important to acknowledge who has contributed to climate change and who is experiencing the greatest threat from the changing climate. Expecting the adaptation of low carbon technologies by frontline communities just because it is the right thing to do is unfair. It is on us (the Entrepreneur Support Organizations) to hold our entrepreneurs accountable to develop technologies that are not just low carbon intensive but are truly meeting the needs of the communities and are accessible and affordable by them.’’  – Nivisha Shah, Global Impact Manager, New Energy Nexus.

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Nivisha Shah, Global Impact Manager, New Energy Nexus

”That three intermediaries can come together for an event like AEES to place justice and equity at the centre of discussions and action around the energy transition is proof of the power of collaboration. An initial step on a pathway to collaborative solutioning requiring organizations to step out of their silos to build an inclusive ecosystem.”Sucharita Kamath, Head, South Asia, Aspen Network of Development


💡South Asia is already a massive market in itself. Why go global when going deeper could deliver enormous impact?

The clean energy transition in India has been accelerating in the past decade. India is also beginning to see an EV revolution in the two-wheeler industry. This transition demonstrates untapped market potential, but also the risk of leaving some communities and regions behind. This could be mitigated in part  by entrepreneur support organizations if we collectively  focus on key areas that also solve for an equitable transition.

‘’There are challenges as it’s being led by a lot of market forces… what about the rural areas and equity in general? Are women participating in this clean energy transition?… These are the areas where I think there needs to be a lot more attention’’Pratap Raju, Founding Partner at Climate Collective.

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Pratap Raju, Founder of Climate Collective during the ‘Unconference’ session at the summit.

Entrepreneur Support Organizations such as New Energy Nexus, Climate Collective and ANDE, are working to solve social, economic and climate challenges in completely new ways, from directly working with clean energy entrepreneurs to helping enable an inclusive and equitable ecosystem. We see entrepreneurs as the agent of change in this critical decade…

AEES India 2024? Let’s go!