Dr. Harish Hande

In an era when most of us dream of having a lucrative job and leading a lavish life, there are some who stand out and take the responsibility of serving the nation and it’s poor. Presenting before you, next in the series of articles “JEWELS OF KGP”, Dr. Harish Hande, who chose an unconventional way of life and made it really “big”! From an engineer to a social entrepreneur, from India to Sri Lanka to America, Harish has seen it all. We at Awaaz, IIT Kharagpur got a chance to interact with him and know about his ideas. 


Dr. Harish Hande is an Energy Engineering graduate from IIT Kharagpur (and a doctorate from UMass Lowell) and co-founder of the social enterprise, SELCO (Solar Electric Light Company) India which has redefined energy sustainability in its twenty-odd years of operation. Dr. Hande serves on the boards of many organizations, both national and international. He says, “For us, the biggest motivation is frustration”. 


 Harish did his basic schooling from Ispat English Medium School in Orissa. He completed his graduation in Energy Engineering from IIT-KGP in the year 1990. He then went on to complete his Master’s from the US and later Ph.D. in the same branch from the University of Massachusetts Lowell (also known as UMass Lowell). However, he quickly switched from science to social enterprising when he felt it was his turn to give solutions to the country’s problems. After spending months and years across villages, from Latin America to Sri Lanka, the in-depth analysis of the major problems of the poor made him set up the enterprise of his own SELCO India in the year 1995, with the financial assistance provided by the co-founder Neville Williams. Not only has SELCO lighted up thousands of homes through its solar plants but has also worked continuously to bridge the economic divide in energy distribution. Though investments have been pumped into the sector over the past couple of years, Harish believes that space still remains reserved largely for the “big players”. The poor, who instead require a decentralized solar network, are still to be reached. Speaking of his expectations of the near future, Harish hopes that his enterprise would be able to lay a platform for socio-economic growth for the youth of vernacular regions such as the north-east of Orissa. Innovation, he believes, is that which reaches the poor.


For exceptional contributions to the field of energy, Dr. Harish has received several prestigious awards and recognitions both at the national and international levels. They have truly been a part and parcel of his life. Some of them are the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2011, Social Entrepreneur of the Year 2007, the Karnataka Rajyotsava Prashasti in 2011. In 2013 the Trustees of the University of Massachusetts awarded him the Doctorate of Humane Letters and the following year IIT Kharagpur conferred upon him the distinguished alumnus award. Moreover, in the year 2008, Dr. Harish was chosen by Business Today as one of the “21 young leaders for India’s 21st century” and further in that year, India Today named him one of the 50 pioneers of change in India. SELCO India under him won the Ashden Award for Sustainable Energy 2005 and Accenture Economic Development Award for 2005. In 2007, SELCO again won the Ashden Award, this time for “Outstanding Achievement” in the energy sector and the icing on the cake was that it was presented by Al Gore, former Vice President of the USA.  Although not many make it to such coveted awards, Dr. Harish believes that it is not the awards but the hunger to find solutions that have kept him going.



Harish recalls his social life in IIT-KGP and shares his experience of being a part of student administration of the Nehru Hall of Residence, and believes that the hostel management and politics made him learn a lot. He also cherishes being a part of the football and hockey teams in his hall. When asked about his visit to KGP, he says that he loves being here and assures of visiting his Alma Mater within the following two to three years. 


 According to Harish, IITs need to be more serious about their responsibility towards the nation. The coursework under the IITs requires being strictly reassessed if they wish to provide solutions to the country’s biggest problems. He emphasizes that for students to be merely a job and placement-oriented for four years won’t be a way out for our progress. Moreover, Harish feels that if the youth wants to step into social enterprising, it first requires ending the major disconnect which is heavily felt while interacting with the people of rural areas or of lower economic status. 


Harish is aware of the rising depression cases recently and as a message to the student community of KGP, Harish wants them to enjoy the stay of their four years within the campus, looking beyond minor failures of scores or job offers. Cherishing the ecosystem inside, making good friends, and learning new things is what he wants students to look. These years are a great time to shape up but he also adds up that what matters more would be to invest energy and learnings into the service of our country once the students graduate. He says, “You can fail in a few subjects but you cannot fail in life”.


1 thought on “Dr. Harish Hande”

  1. Venkata Siva Prasad Desaboyina

    Salute to you Harish Sir for you excellence in solar energy conservation. Happy to know about you in today’s E.Tv Andhra Pradesh Idisangathi programme. I would like to procure solar systems in full for my pent house under construction in Visakhapatnam, A.P. Request you please to provide me the details infull.

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