A fervent supporter of climate and sustainability entrepreneurship, Jui Joshi, Partner at Climate Collective, tells Education Post’s Tanay Kumar about the importance of gender diversity in this rather new and rising sector.
You completed your Bachelor’s degree in Engineering, following which you did your Master’s in Climate Change and Sustainability Studies from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS). Engineering and Climate Change, two entirely different fields… why did you make the switch?
I completed my Engineering in Information Technology (IT) from Pune and I enjoyed it. After almost two years, I realised this is not something I want to do for the rest of my life. During that time, I strongly felt how pivotal career counseling is in one’s life. You may be good in a particular subject or skill, but that does not mean it has to become your career.
I volunteered myself for some projects related to cleaning river banks and ocean beaches. In some of these projects, there were over 700 people working together, making notes of every single thing we picked up from these river banks and beaches, such as cigarette butts, milk packets, plastic bottles etc. That’s pretty much when I developed an interest in sustainability and decided to pursue my Master’s in the subject.
While I was volunteering for these clean-up projects, I would keep coming across many theories of sociology, urban planning, policy, sustainable development goals, etc. Climate Change and Sustainability Studies is a fine combination of studying these concepts and applications.
Please tell us more about Climate Collective and how students in higher education can benefit from organizations like yours.
Climate Collective is an Indian non-profit organization which works in the niche of climate tech and entrepreneurship support. People often perceive climate tech only in energy and mobility such as electric vehicles, but it also encompasses circular economy, solution initiatives for pollution, plastic waste start-ups, air pollution start-ups, potter technology start-ups, sustainable food technology and much more. All these are new businesses with basic products in place and want to crack the market. So, Climate Collective works majorly with the start-ups that have basic minimum viable products in the sustainability sector. We help them grow and scale up.
Further, Climate Collective emboldens them to get funding as well. Climate Collective runs accelerator programs for these businesses and we have also been trying to build an ecosystem that enables sustainability entrepreneurs, as this sector really needs a boost in India. We keep running large-scale events for all of them in that community. We also help several corporates in their decarbonization process through plugging new innovations in their supply chains.
On the issue of students, Climate Collective runs a climate start-up school, which helps young graduates and fresh working professionals getting into and getting a grip on their venture as climate entrepreneurs. Climate Collective has fellowships, courses that fast track one’s journey in the green sector.
Climate Collective has 862 climate tech start-ups in its portfolio across South Asia and some in Middle East. We organize climate job fairs for students and freshers so that they could get relevant internships and job opportunities in this sector and by these job fairs the start-ups also get passionate people who want to work in the sustainability sector.
What are some emerging career opportunities in sustainability and climate change?
Fortunately, this sector is envisaging a rapid rise and students should definitely think of a career in the green sector. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), this sector will employ over 24 million people by the year 2030. To further add this sector’s importance, in the union budget of 2023-24, the government has allocated around ₹19,000 crore for the National Green Hydrogen Mission.
Now, it’s not essential that one has to get a degree from a sustainability-dedicated institute like TISS to work in the green sector. Here are some examples: if you are a finance graduate, you can work in the finance department of a green sector company. If you are a chartered accountant, you can take care of the accounts of a climate tech start-up. As an IT engineer, you can help develop the whole user interface for those start-ups. Chemical engineers are trying to solve the problem of plastic packaging.
This is a sunrise sector and we can teach and mould our students-turned-professionals according to the needs as there is a big shortage of skilled workforce. Another example of its potential is that, during the pandemic, when many core sectors were registering negative or sluggish growth rate, the green sector was flourishing.
There must be some incidents during your stint at Climate Collective which made you feel that you wished more and more people were aware about climate change and entrepreneurship. Would you share some of those incidents with us?
Yes, so many times when we run our climate accelerator programs for climate tech start-ups, we feel awareness is lacking.
Sometimes we try to seek women professionals in the sustainable energy sector, but the number of females choosing a career in it is far too less. So, if we don’t galvanize awareness for every gender, we must not lose the opportunity to bring women in these green jobs as the diversity scenario in other areas of our economy isn’t very bright.
How does Climate Collective propose to encourage students to chose climate tech and green sector as a career option?
Introducing syllabus and giving the credits for the course, even at a minor elective level, can be one worthwhile solution to inform college students. Further, Climate Collective also offers a month course work to students to enlighten them about the necessary aspects of climate tech.
Further, institutions and colleges should inform students where they could find resources that are available online or offline. And companies working in this sector and colleges must come on board to provide internships so that students can be skilled at early levels of their career, which would further benefit them in the future as well.
How do you see women in the domain of climate entrepreneurship in India and how can they be more empowered?
When it comes to women in entrepreneurs in India, some old socio-cultural biases come partly into the picture. They may be inadvertent, but they do exist and they need to be uprooted. One of the fundamental social predicaments is that women are hardly encouraged to be entrepreneurs. Do a stable job, choose a non-risk sector, don’t deviate too much, etc. That’s what most women in India are told. These prejudices need to be thrown out the window.
Then there is the problem of education for women, which is another vital aspect is we want more women to become entrepreneurs.
Further, helping them in networking is very important as males easily network with other males in this sector. Climate Collective works indefatigably to help female climate entrepreneurs to network with relevant people and we try our best to get them funding because women in India rarely hold any property or collateral to take loans.
What are the challenges that climate entrepreneurs in India are currently facing?
Funding is still a bit tight in this sector, despite registering good growth. People are also sceptical about using the goods produced by climate tech companies. In 2022, PwC reported that this sector received a staggering $87.5 billion of funding in the financial year 2020-21. So, climate tech is really a rising sector to consider a career in.
We also need more robust but amicable regulations which not only keep an eye on any malpractice in this sector, but also help worthy start-ups and other firms. Waste management, pollution, food-tech are some of the areas where entrepreneurs need substantial funding and above all, the trust of people.