On an otherwise reasonable evening, more than 1,000 people packed an auditorium in Boulder, Colorado, for the culmination of the 2012 Unreasonable Institute. They came to see 23 ventures present their solutions to some of the world’s greatest challenges.

Mouhsine Serrar, Founder and CEO of Prakti Design Labs, shares how his venture is bringing clean energy technologies to households in developing countries.

Prakti designs, manufactures, and distributes clean and efficient cookstoves. Every person on this planet needs to cook his/her food. Unfortunately, Half the world population relies on biomass fuel and inefficient and smoky traditional stoves. This is a global environmental, social, and health burden. Clean and Efficient cookstoves are one of the largest markets on the planet. It is the hardest market to crack also. A successful stove enterprise must invest and innovate on stove design, on production, and just as challenging, on effective stove marketing and distribution. After working full time on stoves for 8 years in 15 countries, Prakti has the key to be the first enterprise to unlock the global stove market.

Prakti has now the best stove portfolio: best charcoal stove for Africa/South Asia/Haiti, the best chimney stove in Nepal/Himalaya region, best double burner stove in India, and best institutional stoves in Africa and Haiti. There are now 250,000 people in the world relying on Prakti stoves to cook their everyday meals. This scale up is mostly thanks to humanitarian sales. For wider and deeper dissemination we are implementing a commercial stove distribution.

What is the urgent social or environmental need you’re addressing?

Too many women are dying and growing poorer from the simple act of cooking. Enter any hutment, anywhere in the world, and chances are you will find a cloud of acrid smoke from a cooking fire hanging in the air. Half the world’s population prepare their daily meals this way. WHO reports that smoke from cooking fires kills over 1.6 million people every year. These stoves consume twice the necessary fuel, damaging both the environment and the livelihoods of billions of people. In rural areas, women spend an average of 20 hours per week collecting wood. In fuel-scarce areas households often spend up to 40% of their income on fuel. This fuel use accelerates deforestation and climate change. Each day, over 2 million tons of wood are burned for cooking and 4 million tons of CO2 is released.

What is your solution to this need? Describe your business strategy.

While accommodating traditional cooking techniques, recipes, and fuel, Prakti stoves cut fuel use in half and reduce the smoke emitted by 70%. The health benefits are immediate, and the fuel savings surpass the cost of the stove within six months of daily use. Prakti produces stoves that meet a variety of needs: household or institutional, with chimneys or without, and compatible with a range of fuels including wood, charcoal, or biomass briquettes. Our products are manufactured at semi-industrial scale in India, but designed for local assembly and repair. Our ‘factory-in-a-box’ system promotes local capacity building by enabling cost-effective, quality-controlled production transfer anywhere in the world. Our stoves are distributed by local organizations and trained female entrepreneurs.

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The Unreasonable Institute arms entrepreneurs creating solutions to the world’s biggest social and environmental problems with the mentorship, capital, and networks they need to do so.

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