India

Tracing infrastructure through social entrepreneurship and public-private partnerships in India’s health and energy sectors

In the past decade the notion of off-grid infrastructure has taken a more positive cast in descriptions of the self-reliance, entrepreneurship and social networks that are seen to underpin the rapid growth of emerging economies such as India. The creation of markets for solar home systems that are distributed through local direct-selling networks are presented by start-up companies, governments and donors as successful alternatives to the expansion of nation-wide electricity grids. Informal health providers and village-based pharmacies are now seen as an innovative solution to the difficulties of governing large scale public health infrastructures.

In Koraput, Orissa, life off the grid has become a frontier market for social entrepreneurship. Here we focus on the social networks of caste and kinship that are incorporated into market distribution systems used to sell nutritionally fortified foods and solar powered lighting technologies to the poor. We follow local entrepreneurs as they seek to distribute these goods along worn out road networks, negotiate with the companies and NGOs that employ them, and build relationships with their customers.

What relationships make it possible to live off the grid?

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