Light relief

With all the press coverage devoted to the spectacular rise of emerging markets, it's easy to forget the disheartening mass of people within the developing world who remain effectively shut out from the fruits of globalisation and rapid economic growth.

One sad measure of this can be found in access to a service the developed world has taken for granted for nearly a century: electric power.

Roughly 1.6 billion people around the world live without electricity, according to a 2006 World Bank study. In South Asia alone, more than 700 million people still lack access to a functioning power grid.

D.light Design, a SiliconValley start-up now based inNew Delhi, is taking direct aim at that underserviced demographic. The firm has attracted $6 million from venture firms including Draper Fisher Jurvetson to support its ambition. Founded by two Stanford University MBA students, the company aims to eradicate the kerosene lantern used throughout the developing world through a series ofAC and solar-chargeable lights designed for families surviving on just a few dollars a day.

Not only are D.light's products more powerful and efficient, they also are much safer for poor families than low-quality kerosene, which often emits toxic pollutants and is an obvious fire risk.

D.light is currently promoting two products, the Nova and Solata, throughout India and sub-Saharan Africa at a price of under $30, which is still a sizable sum for the low-income families the company hopes to attract.

The firm is banking on the notion that customers will see its products as long-term investments that will save them the everyday risk and expense of kerosene while providing better lighting.