Simpa NetworksWhich company are you involved with as part of your voluntary commitment to Rassembleurs d’Énergies?

I’m involved in the Simpa Networks project; a startup technology company (as it defines itself) that sells domestic solar power systems in Uttar Pradesh. In state of Northern India, many villages still struggle to access electricity or have no access at all. In fact, that’s the reality for 300 million people in this country.


How does it work?

In return for a very small prepayment charge, Simpa Networks provides electricity generated using photovoltaic panels, batteries, cell phone chargers, lamps and fans, which the company then installs in the homes of people in off-grid communities. All of these are distributed in the villages by small-scale local entrepreneurs; the local grocery store, for example. The recipients become owners of the items concerned after about two years.


Why did you make this commitment?

Partly by chance, but mainly as a result of my own beliefs. I was one of 28 ENGIE employees who attended the session hosted by ENGIE University that set out to identify strategic development priorities for the Foncière Chênelet social enterprise. It was there that I first found out about Rassembleurs d’Énergies and its enthusiastic developers. Since I was already keen to get involved in an initiative like this, it didn’t take me long to decide to follow in their footsteps…


How has your project team evolved?

The team led by Laure Vinçotte has four members. We worked with one of them – Alice – between January and August last year, first of all in Paris to discuss and consider the development plan for Simpa Networks, and then in India to get to know the company and meet the people who benefit from its services. It was my job to audit the company and put together the commitment documentation. We presented the documentation during the summer to the Rassembleurs d’Energie Investment Committee chaired by Gérard Mestrallet, which awarded it €1.4 million in support (a €1 million loan and 400,000 in the form of equity).


What has been the initial outcome of this experience?

It’s both intense and rewarding. Rassembleurs d’Energies turns out to be a really involving initiative that has helped me to develop both personally and professionally.

These entrepreneurs have really impressed me with their commitment, the respect they have for the communities they serve, and the extremely high quality of the work they do.

The nature of my job means that I work on ENGIE investments every day. Discovering the world of solidarity investment has allowed me to step back and gain a new perspective of my work, and as a result, I’ve become aware of the need to adapt our business model in some cases. I’m also much more aware of environmental issues. Working for Simpa Networks has strengthened my belief that there are alternative energy solutions that really work in emerging countries, which is important at a time when some people take the short-term view of promoting the use of coal, despite the fact that the countries concerned are increasingly confronted by environmental challenges.