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About | Powering Livelihoods

Programme overview

The gap

India’s rural economy, comprising 119 million male and female farmers and 34 million microenterprises owned by men and women, is constrained by unreliable electricity access; more than four million microenterprises mention lack of reliable electricity as the biggest challenge to their business.

The electricity gap for the rural economy could be addressed through clean energy innovations, having a market potential of over $50 billion. Currently, very few such innovations exist with deployment limited to hundreds. They are struggling to scale due to lack of policy and financial support and unable to unlock support due to lack of evidence, creating a vicious circle.

Bridging the gap

In order to break the vicious cycle at the commercial valley of death and trigger the $50 billion market, Powering Livelihoods envisages a four-fold approach with gender-inclusive strategies at its core. The programme will provide enterprise support to enable women-friendly product enhancements and commercial deployments, generate evidence at scale, disseminate knowledge to key stakeholders, and unlock sectoral support and growth.


Call for Application
Call for Applications
December 2020 - January 2020
Application Screening
Application Screening and Enterprise Shortlisting
January 2020 – April 2020
Jury Pitches
COVID-19 support to Shortlisted Enterprises
June 2020 - August 2020
Cohort launch
Cohort Launch
August 2020
Incubation Programme
September 2020 – March 2023
Cohort Graduation
Cohort Graduation
March 2023

Intended Impact

We aim and measure the impact of Powering Livelihoods at three levels: End-user, Enterprise and Ecosystem
End-user Level
10,000 beneficiaries
using clean energy-powered livelihood solutions with over 1/3rd being women.
increase in income of at least 3/4th of the beneficiaries.

Enterprise Level
$10 million
cumulative value of commercial capital raised by DRE productive use enterprises in India by June 2023 with at least $1 millionn towards gender inclusion.
increase in cumulative revenue of the programme enterprises.

Ecosystem Level
(directly attributable to the programme)
  • Evolution in perceptions of key bankers, investors, and policymakers towards the sector and gender inclusion.
  • At least one policy is broadly attributable to the programme endeavours.
  • At least one productive-use enterprise, which is not part of the programme, receives debt or equity support.
  • At least one new investor extends equity to productive use enterprises.
  • Enhanced sectoral knowledge (and potentially adoption) of gender-inclusive business strategies across the value chain of DRE productive use enterprises.

A joint initiative

CEEW and Villgro have co-conceptualised Powering Livelihoods and are collaborating to catalyse India's rural economy through clean energy-based solutions.

The Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) is one of Asia’s leading not-for-profit policy research institutions. The Council uses data, integrated analysis, and strategic outreach to explain – and change – the use, reuse, and misuse of resources. It prides itself on the independence of its high-quality research, develops partnerships with public and private institutions, and engages with the wider public. In 2021, CEEW once again featured extensively across ten categories in the 2020 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report. The Council has also been consistently ranked among the world’s top climate change think tanks. Follow us on Twitter @CEEWIndia for the latest updates.

Villgro is India's foremost and one of the world's largest social enterprise incubators. Established in 2001, Villgro’s mission is to make innovative, impactful businesses succeed in Health, Agribusiness, and Climate Action. Since 2001, Villgro has supported 340 social enterprises that have raised over INR 4.28 billion in investments, created 5646 jobs and impacted over 20.8 million lives.

Villgro incubates social enterprises that lie at the intersection of unique innovation, high impact and sustainable scale. Our multidimensional approach is driven by the idea of sustainable value creation and it informs every stage of our business support and development. Creating value for all is at the center of everything we do.

Villgro was awarded the Top Incubator Award by the Department of Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (GoI) in 2020 and the DivHERsity awards in 2022.