BuffaloGrid, a UK/India startup, has announced its mobile technology is now live in India, bringing free mobile phone power and the internet to thousands of people in villages in India who previously had limited access to electricity.

On stage at the FutureTech Festival in Delhi, BuffaloGrid’s CEO Daniel Becerra also revealed the company has raised an additional £3.4m in funds from the likes of Local Globe, Seedcamp, ADV and Hardware Club.

The money will be used to increase the sustainability and scalability of its solar-powered mobile power and internet technology.

The FutureTech Festival is part of the larger UK-India partnership launched by Prime Minister Modi and UK Prime Minister Theresa May in 2016.

With the introduction of sub-$50 smartphones and widespread mobile network coverage across most of the world, access to electricity is now the major blocker to people getting online. Over 1.2 billion people in the world live without access to electricity.

This untapped market is estimated to be worth $2.8bn globally and $1.1bn in India alone.

BuffaloGrid is solving this problem by working with organisations operating in off-grid communities to deploy its internet-enabled mobile charging system.

The company’s first focus is bringing its solar-powered community-based mobile charging technology to the 1,907,000 villages without power across India, giving more than 240 million Indians access to free mobile phone charging in their local stores.

One pilot of BuffaloGrid’s latest technology is being run with Airtel, one of India’s largest mobile network operators. Airtel is providing free mobile charging through BuffaloGrid Hubs to everyone who visits select stores in Uttar Pradesh, Northern India.

Another pilot with Sahaj eVillage has been running since early October. Sahaj eVillage is a retailer bridging the digital divide between urban and rural India.

Both of these technology pilots are taking place in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh where Bloomberg reports under 50% of all homes are electrified.

Daniel Becerra, CEO of BuffaloGrid explained: “While network coverage and data use across rural India is at an all-time high, power is still a major problem.

“Bringing power to these communities not only has a huge social impact but also presents a strong commercial case to businesses operating in these areas. This is something that was overlooked in the past.

“The organisations using our technology are already seeing how providing mobile charging in rural areas is helping to bring visitors into stores and increase the lifetime value of customers.”

The latest round of funding, led by Local Globe, saw first-time investments in the company from Hardware Club, ADV and Seedcamp totalling £1.8m.

BuffaloGrid also secured £1.6m from the European Commission’s H2020 Grant scheme. This brings total grants and investment secured by BuffaloGrid to £5.2m to date from the likes of Tiny VC, Unreasonable Impact and Microsoft’s Energy Access Initiative.

This investment is being used to scale up production of BuffaloGrid’s technology to deal with anticipated demand in 2019.

Following successful pilots, enterprises can then choose to roll out hundreds more BuffaloGrid Hubs to their stores across India.

Commenting on the latest round George Henry, partner at Local Globe, said: “As soon as we met the BuffaloGrid team we were impressed by their ambitious vision and smart technology. Now we’re committed to their mission to bring power and internet to the next billion.

“In the future, companies like BuffaloGrid have the potential to be seen alongside ISPs and MNOs as the providers of next-generation connectivity. Their internet-connected solar-powered BuffaloGrid Hub offers a scaleable solution to a global problem.”

With these first commercial pilots now live across India, BuffaloGrid has further large-scale deployments planned in early 2019 and expects over a million Indians to have used its technology by 2020.

It then plans to explore further markets including countries across Sub-Saharan Africa and South America.