Essmart Global, co-founded by recent MIT alumna Diana Jue ’09, MCP ’12 and Harvard University alumna Jackie Stenson, won the grand prize at the 2012 Dell Social Innovation Competition (DSIC) in Austin, Tex. At the DSIC Awards, on June 12, the team was awarded $50,000 to further their work in developing a distribution model for essential technologies in India.
DSIC supports and recognizes young social innovators who have dedicated themselves to solving problems around the world using transformative and innovative tactics. This year, DSIC received almost 1,800 entries from more than 105 countries. The five finalists, including Essmart, traveled to Austin to network with social innovation leaders and pitch their concept to DSIC judges.
Essmart previously won $10,000 through the MIT IDEAS Global Challenge in May. IDEAS Global Challenge is an annual competition for MIT teams that tackle global barriers to well being through innovative and entrepreneurial public service.
Essmart is working to establish a for-profit company that provides rural retail shop owners in India access to products that improve their customers’ lives, such as LED solar lanterns, water filters and environmentally friendly cookstoves. Many essential life-improving technologies are being produced at low cost around the world today, but many manufacturers struggle to ratchet up their scale and grow their customer base.
Essmart’s model bridges the distribution gap between these technology manufacturers and rural retail shops. Rural shop owners benefit from increased profit margins, consumers benefit from local access to essential technologies, and technology suppliers and manufacturers benefit from having access to new markets.
The founders of Essmart know their market well: They traveled to India to implement a pilot during MIT’s Independent Activities Period (IAP) with support from International Development Initiative, MISTI-India, The Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship and MIT’s Public Service Center. They will return to India to begin operations this summer, with the goal of establishing distribution channels to 65 rural shops after one year.