Impact, Pollinate India

I’m Zara Marais, an environmental scientist based in Melbourne, Australia. With my AECOM colleagues Sean Holmes and Louis Scipione, I’m currently taking part in Pollinate Energy’s Young Professionals Program in Hyderabad, India. We’re sharing our journey here in the AECOM Impact blog.  Follow our journey and join the conversation below!

Sean, Louis and I have been here for four days now, working with the team from Pollinate Energy as they set up their operations in Hyderabad. We’re starting to settle into the routine of life in “The Hive,” Pollinate Energy’s headquarters in Hyderabad, and learning more every day about the challenges and joys of establishing and expanding a social business.

The two members of the Pollinate Energy team responsible for building the business in Hyderabad — known as the “city co-founders” — are Paul and Pascal.

Paul is originally from New Zealand, and has a background in corporate law and environmental policy. Pascal is a French surfer who used to work in advertising and fiercely guards his imported parmesan cheese. Paul and Pascal will spend a year here in Hyderabad training the local operations manager and sales manager, as well as recruiting a team of Pollinators — ensuring the business is capable of sustaining itself in the long term. Also living with us in the Hive are Emma (one of Pollinate Energy’s original co-founders) and Boris, who will both be the city-cofounders for Pollinate’s next expansion city. With so many people working together, the Hive (pictured below) is usually a bustling hub of activity. The best work is done in the kitchen, where “Pinky” the cook, whips up delicious curries for us every day!


As Sean explained in his previous post, we’re here with a team of nine young professionals to help Paul and Pascal work on four key projects. The objective of the project I’m working on is to increase recruitment of female Pollinators. With my team, I’ll be focusing on barriers to recruitment of women in India and how Pollinate can break these down to ensure they’re providing equal employment opportunities. As well as these projects, we’re also training the new Pollinators that have already been hired. So far we’ve worked with two new Pollinators (Kalyan and Anil, pictured with us below).


We run through theory with them in the morning, and then head out to the communities with them in the evenings to continue training in the field. Below is a picture of Kalyan, showing the leaders of a community how Pollinate Energy’s solar light product works.


Exploring Hyderabad has been an incredible experience so far. It’s a city of contrasts — old and new, loud and serene, rich and poor, beautiful and confronting. The Hive is located in a peaceful neighborhood, but only a few hundred meters away is a chaotic main street packed with people, traffic and street food vendors. Further into the city, we’ve seen ancient architecture standing beside the vast, modern office buildings. As we’ve started to enter the communities, we’ve met people who live without access to basic services like water and electricity. At the same time, most families within these communities will own a mobile phone, and it’s not uncommon for us to see satellite dishes attached to tents. We still have a lot to learn about the city and its people, and what role Pollinate Energy can play in addressing key social challenges.

The journey has only just begun; more from us soon!

Zara_89x100_BWZara Marais ( is a professional environmental scientist with AECOM’s Impact Assessment and Permitting team in Melbourne, Australia, and an enthusiastic bird-watcher. You can also check out her previous AECOM Impact blog post titled “Award-winning environmental practitioner shares three tips for new consultants.”
Zara Marais

Originally published Apr 21, 2015

Author: Zara Marais