Interview with Albert Zamal, Clean Energy Entrepreneur in India

Albert Zamal’s Zougam Institute for Community Resources & Development (ZICORD) focuses on machines and tools for the production of briquettes and stoves. The technology for fuel from waste biomass is simple, applicable, and low-cost. 

Interview with Albert Zamal, Clean Energy Entrepreneur in India

Read the interview of this budding entrepreneur who is gradually making his village smoke-free with clean energy solutions.

Albert’s start-up is one of the 11 enterprises which are currently being incubated under the GIZ (German Corporation for International Cooperation). It is supported by the Clean Energy Program of ICCSPL (Innovative Change Collaborative Services Private Limited), a subsidiary of ICCO Group B.V in India. The initiative has already impacted nearly 5000 households and provided employment to 22 women for producing mass briquettes in the last year. 

The beginning

In 1997 Albert was pursuing a course in community development and planning at the Centre for Development Studies and Activities in Pune. He recalls being tasked with a lot of practical assignments on community mobilization from which he gained valuable experience. As a meritorious student he was given an opportunity to pursue his higher studies in Bangkok but destiny took him on a different journey.
“I wanted to come to my home state Manipur to mobilize development workers to stand for people's rights to lead a dignified life. ZICORD offered a way of achieving this while also tackling the serious problems arising from exposure to smoke from the traditional cookstove and open fire.

At that time we were dependent on a subsistence economy model but I wanted to change that. The focus moved towards entrepreneurship and an innovation-driven approach, so that people themselves would have the ability to stand up for their own rights and better livelihood opportunities”, Albert says. He works closely with the local communities to find innovative solutions.

Venturing into clean energy space

Three years ago, in 2015, ZICORD ventured into providing machines and tools for the production of briquettes and stoves.
“We are making products that local people admire and respect. We need opportunities to grow and funds to scale up our venture”, says Albert.
Today, Albert is assiduously working to make Mary Kom’s village Longar smoke-free. ZICORD has provided 400 houses with cookstoves and mass briquettes for cooking and heating during winters. They intend to reach out to an additional 1000 households very soon. Several capacity building and sensitization programs are already being conducted to facilitate reaching more households.

The organization is active in several regions. It has strong presence in Games Village (Langol), Saparmeina, Kangpokpi, Lamdeng, and Churachandpur in Manipur.
Through its interventions, ZICORD has provided cookstoves and briquettes to nearly 10,000 households, employed 112 members of five self-help groups (SHGs) and through them, managed to enable 1300 people to become vendors in the different blocks of its operational areas.

Local solutions for global problems 

Albert states he is very clear in his work philosophy. “We work bearing in mind the traditional ways and culture and tweak our solutions and resources around it. We do a lot of door-to-door awareness campaigns to sensitize the community. Now, we need to go from households to the community, and from the community to the line departments of Governments and make them aware on how to use these local solutions”, he explains.

The business model

ZICORD has an assembling unit production machine and tools for making briquettes from waste bio-mass (forestry waste, agri waste) and municipal solid waste. They are sold through SHGs.  ZICORD is responsible for making user-friendly products, and for capacity building of SHGs enabling them to sell to local markets. The organization is currently sustaining on self-generated funds.

Future plans 

“We want to scale up our existing solutions with adequate funding and also diversify our business. We hope to venture into pellet making and enhance our beneficiary base from 50,000 households to 100,000 in two years. We are trying to get funds worth INR 6000000 (approx. EUR 72,000) for both of these activities.”

Message to budding entrepreneurs

“Look, learn and practice. Create a solid base for the community and really enable them to become self-dependent.”

Message for ICCSPL 

We are truly grateful to ICCSPL for guiding us in the incubation phase, providing us with relevant exposure and also for actively looking for funding sources. We are currently in a dialogue with NEDfi (the North Eastern Development Finance Corporation) and exploring avenues for getting funds from other banks as well.

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