Essmart is a distribution company for essential technologies, such as solar lanterns and water filters. The company connects small, local retail shops with a catalog of these products. Essmart launched operations in southern India, but its goal is to create a channel through which life-improving products can reach millions around the world.
What inspired you to get involved with this work?
We originally got interested in the technology-for-development space through our involvement with D-Lab at MIT. However, throughout our travels and research, we were frustrated by how many potentially life-improving technologies exist, but how few of them are actually reaching the people they intend to benefit sustainably or at scale. Our focus shifted to technology dissemination, and we started to lay the groundwork for what would become Essmart.
How did you get started, and how has your work evolved?
Essmart started as the topic of our master's theses. When we were introduced by a professor at MIT, it evolved into a project that we piloted in India. And when we started attracting the seed capital we needed, Essmart became not only a reality, but something we eat, sleep, and breathe.
What impact have you achieved on the communities you serve?
Since Essmart's launch in Pollachi, Tamil Nadu, in August 2012, we have built a network of 70+ local retail shops, connected them with our catalog of seven types of essential technologies, and sold over 700 products through this network. Each product sale directly improves the life of the end user. For example, many end users are local shop owners who use Essmart-distributed solar lanterns to keep their shops open later at night, thus increasing their productivity.
How did the PSC play a role in your work?
The PSC has been vital to getting our enterprise off the ground. Not only has the PSC helped provide the financial capital that we needed to get started, but it has provided us with access to mentors and advice that has helped our model develop and improve over time. We are very thankful to the PSC and many members of the MIT ecosystem for providing us with the funding, mentoring, and support that we needed to turn our idea into a reality!
How has this work had a personal impact on you?
Being able to work on Essmart is the rare chance to put all of our research and experience into tangible action, to work on something we are so passionate about that we forget it's work, and to build something that we believe will have lasting positive impact on the world. We wouldn't want to be doing anything else.