1st April 2019 BUSINESS STANDARDThe cacophony and energy around Startup India and entrepreneurship has bypassed the agri-preneur. It is time to reverse this unfortunate and cumulative neglect. In economic terms, it is a bit like setting right traditional caste discrimination in social development!
1st April 2019 BUSINESS STANDARD
(*The writer is a corporate advisor and Distinguished Professor of IIT Kharagpur. He was formerly Vice Chairman of Hindustan Unilever and Director, Tata Sons.)
The cacophony and energy around Startup India and entrepreneurship has bypassed the agri-preneur. It is time to reverse this unfortunate and cumulative neglect. In economic terms, it is a bit like setting right traditional caste discrimination in social development!
Entrepreneurs promote enterprise through meeting six challenges: (i) creating products or services for which he must find a market and customers (ii) adapting to changing consumer requirements and technological possibilities (iii) experiencing great psychological stress due to unparalleled unpredictability (iv) attracting social approbation and disapproval if he fails (v) working incredibly hard and with great passion, year after year and (vi) suffering from a poor ecosystem for management advice, mentorship, fund-raising and risk management.
These six challenges are faced by the farmer, and, therefore, they can be regarded as India’s greatest entrepreneurs–land, fish, poultry and dairy farmers—17 crores of them, bearing on their shoulders the economic wellbeing of 70 crore people, assuming four to a family. Many people mouth politically correct things about farmers but are unable to influence positively the farmers’ lot.
Farmers constitute a big, but fragmented, vote bank, so politicians do not care enough about this heterogenous bunch. Farmers are at the heart of employment generation and national economic growth, but economists do not give them enough attention. The city folks take the farmers’ wellbeing for granted and think of the rural people only as consumers of their products. Almost every Prime Minister and Finance Minister has demonstrated good intent but, exceptions apart, has found it difficult to do what is needed.
India must do what has not been done before through a six-point plan. These may appear a bit glib due to the brevity of this article, but surely the suggestions are meaningful.
The time to act with statesmanship and national leadership will arise again after the current bout of elections in May 2019. This six-point program could be considered.