Meet Vishakha Chandhere who’s changing the kitchen in rural and urban India, weaning households away from resource-depleting fuels.
Let’s use it. Trust Vishakha Chandhere to take action where it matters the most. This electrical engineer from Pune, is an ‘out of the box thinker’ who’s bringing about a silent revolution at the grassroot level in rural and urban India through education and training on-field and online, conducting awareness sessions in exploring sustainable cooking methods. Her organisation, OrjaBox - an ‘energetic, and Sustainable Cooking Consultancy, provides customized solutions in sustainable cooking for individuals, restaurants, caterers and commercial organizations on the use of solar cookers.
Affiliated to Solar Cookers International (SCI), Vishakha and her team have already trained 200 people in the working of DIY solar cookers and more than 1000 people in other areas like renewable energy awareness.
Vishakha’s approach as a team player cuts across all sections of society from the boardroom to the grassroots; with government and non-government stakeholders working in the field of renewable energy and climate change. Her education as B.E. in Electrical Engineering, PGD in Environmental Law and Certification as Climate and Renewable Energy Finance Expert, Climate Change, Climate Finance must surely be coloring her training and awareness sessions to make them interesting, informative and easy to follow.
Her association with the Energy and Climate Change Sector for over 12 years, across industry and organizations such as the Maharashtra Energy Development Agency; the British Deputy High Commission; Energy, Climate Change and Growth Unit; Science and Innovation Network; Vihanta Energy Technologies; and Ernst & Young, lays the ground in paving the way for sustainability in India.
Corner Network spoke to Vishakha Chandhere to learn more about OrjaBox and Sustainability.
Could you tell us about yourself and your organization?
OrjaBox was founded in 2018. I enjoy cooking, especially solar cooking, which is why I started this organisation to share knowledge and facilitate the use of various types of solar cookers and other green fuel for cooking. As you already know, our organisation conducts online training on creating awareness about renewable energy, sustainability and allied topics.
What are the factors that set you apart from other organizations in the same field? What is your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)?
OrjaBox is the first of its kind clean cooking service in India, which helps people learn more about the usage of solar cookers. We educate people on how to operate sustainable stoves along with the various types of green fuel, which could be used in homes. We are working towards creating OrjaBox Food Stations; have a few upcoming livelihood projects; awareness-building about renewable energy, climate change and sustainability. Our services include skillful guidance in setting up green energy-based-cooking centres for individuals, restaurants, and organizations. OrjaBox has partnerships across the sector to provide support to companies and NGOs in adapting sustainable energy practices.
You also offer training on making a DIY solar cooker. Could you elaborate on that?
Our online training and on-field awareness sessions focus on topics related to using renewable energy. The topics include introduction to the concept of renewable energy, understanding climate change, and DIY solar cookers. The online sessions are suitable for those who wish to switch to a low-carbon lifestyle. The purpose of the DIY session is to encourage people to switch to solar cooking so that they could start cooking with the solar cookers they would be making during the workshop. Later, these people could switch to commercial models and continue to make delicious, wholesome meals. Our aim is also to help in generating employment and livelihood for women by training them to make solar cooked cakes, cookies, candy, pickles, etc. and by providing them a platform where they can sell their products.
Are your participants using the solar cookers they made in your sessions?
Almost all 200 participants have switched to solar cooking using the solar cookers they made during the sessions.
Since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses have altered their strategies. What are the reforms that you have adopted in the running of your business?
COVID-19 has brought about innumerable turnarounds in my organization. It has interrupted our on-field activities and 60% of our work has halted. We are on the lookout for space where we can operate our first clean cooking station. However, we continue to conduct online sessions on renewable energy and climate change.
What makes you happy?
On the personal front, I find happiness with the achievements of my friends and family, and I hope to spread joy and warmth everywhere I go and with everyone I meet. On the professional front, I am content when I deliver excellent service to my clients and in watching them adapt to environment-friendly, sustainable lifestyles. I’m happy establishing cordial relationships and rapport with them.
What are your achievements?
One of our notable achievements is that Orjabox was selected in the Charcha for Change Climate Chapter of the UNDP Accelerator Lab, India. We have also started a video series on “Fuel used in Indian Kitchens”. Through this series we wish to promote the need for green fuel for cooking and easily adaptable ways for increasing sustainable cooking in rural and urban areas. Through this video series, we have brought to light the various types of cooking fuel used in rural and urban kitchens, the cost of such fuel and access to it. We urge CSR partners, NGOs, educational and skill-based institutions to implement sustainable cooking projects.
Do you have any testimonials from clients that you'd like to share?
Clients always give feedback post sessions, recently we had conducted a session on the Basics of renewable energy, which received overwhelming feedback. Some said that it was an “informative” session and that I had “explained the basics well”. I am grateful that I am able to spread knowledge and awareness on topics such as sustainability and renewable energy - topics that are closest to my heart.
Interested clients/participants get in touch with you at
Website- www.orjabox.com | Twitter- Orjabox | Facebook- Orjabox
This interview was conducted jointly by Punam Dharkar and Satansha Mamotra, who is currently interning with Corner Network.
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