The World Health Organization says 3 billion people globally cook using solid fuels such as charcoal and coal on open fires or traditional stoves, producing high levels of carbon monoxide, but it has been hard to switch people to clean energy.

Various companies have designed cheap, efficient biomass stoves using wood as fuel but have struggled to gain traction.

Indian social enterprise Swami Samarth Electronics came up with the idea of using tea-sellers in Nashik as salesmen when it realised a regular dealer and distributor model did not work.

"The product is only sellable if it is visible and people can see it is performing and how much less smoke is produced," said Soumitra Kulkarni, director of Swami Samarth Electronics.

Swami Samarth, set up 20 years ago, gives a free stove to tea-stall owners and provides them with a few extra to sell.

"His customers see something new and that it is working well. The tea-seller markets it and gets a commission for each stove," added Kulkarni.

Kulkarni said 12 tea stall owners in Nashik have been marketing the stoves since 2010 and have helped sell over 7,000 units - with one operator selling over 1,000.

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