Marte Hellema, Youth Co:Lab
Power outages and energy waste are serious issues in Pakistan. ENENT, a social enterprise founded and run by young Pakistanis, is setting out to address these through Intellica, a device they invented and created themselves. If they are able to distribute their device throughout the country, it has the potential to drastically change the energy crisis in the country with all the financial and environmental implications that come with it.
Loss of electricity due to its inefficiency in transporting loads or load imbalance across electricity grids, is a problem that many in Pakistan have to deal with on a daily basis. Among others, it results in regular power cuts and unnecessarily high bills.
One day, Muhammad Osama Bin Shakeel, one of the founders of ENENT was reflecting on this problem, when an idea came to him.
Javeria Bin Shakeel, the Chief Operating Officer of ENENT, explains, “I asked my brother, how did this idea come up? And he said, I was just lying in my bed and thinking, why is there this waste of the electricity, when we are using coal, which is like a natural resource. We are producing around 70 percent of the electricity through burning of coal and we are wasting like 30 or 40 percent of it because of not using it in the right way.”
Still in university at the time, Osama together with Syed Ali Jaffar and Muhammad Faheem Ali started deep diving into the issue. Even after graduating, their university continued to support them by allowing them to use their laboratory facilities for their research and testing. Javeria joined the team soon after.
They established their company and after much trial-and-error, their device Intellica was born. Intellica enables consumers to reduce the energy that gets wasted due to imbalance in three phase loads.
“If you take the example of the home. In every room there is an electricity consumption that varies throughout the day. In some rooms you are using AC, in some rooms you are just using light. Since the dynamic consumption of electricity is not balanced, it will cause a waste of electricity. What we are doing is balancing the current in real time, reducing the waste of electricity.”
According to ENENT’s research, up to 20 percent of electricity waste – and the accompanying electricity bill – could be saved by installing their device. Taking these findings further, they have calculated that if they would be able to install 1,000 devices, this could result in savings of up to 18,000 tons of carbon emissions.
While they have made certain that the device is made using robust technology, it is easy to install and maintain. Nothing more complicated than an average electrical device like an air conditioning system.
The coming period will be critical for ENENT.
“The coming three to four months are really crucial for us. They will determine the ultimate future of ENENT as we have installed our devices in a real-life scenario. We have started selling [our device] to Shell Pakistan. They are paying us to install our device. In a way, they are helping us with the pilot testing, but we are generating revenue with the testing as well. And there are some 500 different sites in which we are going to install it in the coming months.”
This real-life testing phase will determine whether their research and predictions are accurate. And while they have done small scale-test runs in the past, this is the first time their device will be tested on an industry scale, which will determine how to develop the further roll-out. That said, based on the results of small-scale testing, the team is confident there is concrete usage possible for the device, which will make it a viable product regardless of the outcome of the coming months.
The product and the confidence the team has in it is the result of hard work. Both with the development and research of the device, but also on the establishment and expansion of their company. At times, they lacked examples and mentors in their direct surroundings though, especially when it came to setting up and running a business.
“In my surroundings, most people prefer regular jobs, because they feel safe. It is not that they do not want to take risks, it is just that their financial obligations are as such that they cannot take on the uncertainty of business.”
It made gaining connections outside their direct community so much more important. They started participating in accelerators and competitions, initially on a university or national level, but soon also regional and international ones. Their first success was winning the energy category in a competition run by the United Nations Environment Programme. It gave them a great boost of confidence.
From there, they were selected as one of the ten youth-led social enterprises in Pakistan for a grant to scale their innovative solution as part of the Impact Link: Social Enterprise Challenge 2020, a collaboration between UNDP Pakistan, the Social Enterprise Academy Pakistan, SEED Ventures and the Scottish Government.
Through this, they became involved with Youth Co:Lab, an initiative co-led by UNDP and Citi Foundation.
“It was a learning journey for me because they did not just help us with the pitches, they helped us with real-life scenarios and with collaborating with real entrepreneurs. They also send us a monthly e-newsletter that shows the achievements of young entrepreneurs and different exciting opportunities and competitions.
If you want to gain maximum knowledge and experience, if you want to learn from the experiences of other entrepreneurs, if you want to learn from successful people, then Youth Co:Lab is the best platform.”
ENENT also found itself in a new wave of environmental awareness in Pakistan. More and more people around Javeria seem to be conscious of concepts such as green environment, green energy, green tech, sustainability and even the Sustainable Development Goals. This has made explaining the relevance of ENENT’s work easier. However, they still face a lot of skepticism.
“People are very appreciative of our idea but when it comes to implementation, they are a bit reluctant because we are dealing with power and we are dealing with the lives of people Because electricity is directly connected with the lives of people,” explains Javeria.
“If I look back a few years, there was not much acceptance for our technology because in Pakistan, people question; how can this happen if no one has ever done this? The concept of innovation is a bit difficult to digest, but now I can see that people are accepting, are recognizing us.”
There are many other industries that could benefit from the technology that ENENT has developed like the solar energy industry. And they have tentatively started conversations with companies from that sector. There are also ambitions to go beyond Pakistan, to enter the market in India, Bangladesh or other countries facing similar energy challenges. Initial ideas even exist to apply the same technology to other devices.
But for the moment they want to focus on Intellica. Expectations are high, not just from those collaborating with and supporting them, but especially among themselves.
“Even though we have not entered into the market yet. I can foresee the impact it will create. I am very hopeful that it will be an amazing technology in the market.”
Co-created in 2017 by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Citi Foundation, Youth Co:Lab aims to establish a common agenda for countries in the Asia-Pacific region to empower and invest in youth so that they can accelerate the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through leadership, social innovation and entrepreneurship. Read more about Youth Co:Lab here.