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Innovating Change: The Energinee Story Part 2

Formed from the words “Energy” and “Jeannie”, Energinee kills three birds with one stone. First, it aims to solve the water pollution issue by preventing the waste from reaching the water bodies in the first place. Second, it reduces air pollution by trapping all the incense dust and ash in one place, preventing it from escaping into the air. Last but not least, it is an enabler, providing incarcerated inmates a job. More than that, it gives them the opportunity to learn new skills and a dignified livelihood for them to support themselves and their families.

How exactly does Energinee do it? Founded in 2018 by Akash and his friend Naresh, they nipped the problem in its bud by collecting the temple waste, such as ashes, flowers and coconut husks, and created a composite material “as strong as stone”. This is perfect for making handicrafts and sculptures, especially of India’s many deities and gods. Ever the innovators, the Energinee team makes the handicrafts by pouring this composite material into 3D printed moulds. The result is beautiful – upcycled art pieces which are eco-friendly too.

The digital bin, with its separate compartments for collecting flowers, incense ash and coconut husks, helps filter the air in temples, maintaining good air quality. The bin, which is currently being patented, can also generate electricity in an eco-friendly way, thus solving problems with a multi-functional product. With the prototype ready, the Energinee team is ready to sell it to temples nationwide, in their campaign to fight pollution and improve lives. With an amazing product, they managed to get the government on board, whose workers will collect the temple waste, and deliver it to them.

Now the only issue is, with a small growing team, who is going to make these handicrafts? The solution presented itself when Akash’s mentors at the Atal Incubation Centre, of which Energinee is an incubatee of, suggested they work with and upskill prison inmates to create the handicrafts. Initially hesitant and full of doubts about coming face to face with inmates, the Energinee team struggled on the inside. Naresh, Akash’s equally passionate co-founder, had sleepless nights wondering how the inmates would be like, and how to face the inmates when they meet. “But when the day of training finally came, it was actually normal.” says Naresh, adding that the first 15 days during this course of training has completely changed his mindset about inmates. The first training was for a batch of 25 inmates, in which 18 graduated in the first 2 weeks. Before they left, these inmates in turn trained their replacements.

Reminiscing Energinee's early days, Naresh says “it was a different experience, seeing people get converted and moving on with their normal lives outside of prison”. Fear gave way to a greater love for humanity, and now Naresh leads the coordination and training operations in the prisons they work with. Today, Energinee boasts an impressive network of 154 temples around Delhi NCR, working with 46 inmates and 22 team members under 25. Humble, Akash says he has not done anything, and that there is a lot more work to do. For these passionate and youthful changemakers, the journey has just begun.

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