One positive takeaway of India’s rich demographic dividend with 64% of the youth population is the rising spirit of entrepreneurship and startup culture. Government policies have been facilitating the youth to become job providers rather than job seekers. The main idea behind a start-up is to disrupt the landscape which is plagued with inherent operational problems and resistance to change.
In India, agriculture sector is one such landscape that offers various opportunities for young aspiring start-ups to disrupt to bring change. Agriculture remains the mainstay of Indian economy despite its shrinking share in the country’s Gross Domestic Product (54 per cent in 1950 to 17.4 per cent in 2018-19).
To justify this stand, Government has re-oriented its policy intervention towards rural and agricultural sector to facilitate the enabling environment not only to achieve the objective of doubling farmer income by 2022, but also job creation, skill upgradation and economic growth.
The same has been revealed by National Association for Software and Services Company (NASSCOM ) report, Agritech in India – Emerging trend in 2019 that agritech startup has been growing at a rate of 25% year on year. It further reported that India hosts more than 450 startups in the agriculture sector. “Every 9th agritech startup in the world is originating from India” the report adds.
Convincing Ecosystem for Agritech Startups
NASSCOM president, Debjani Ghosh while releasing the report said that “India’s agriculture sector is advancing steadily towards its digital transformation and the startup ecosystem is playing a critical role here, bringing innovation and disruption in much needed areas.”
I recently attended Incubation Workshop organised by Trichy Agriculture’s Incubation Forum (Funded by EDII, Tamil Nadu and Supported by TNAU) as a panel member to give suggestions for budding entrepreneurs. While brainstorming with other panel members from diverse platform like CEO of incubators, Innovative Entrepreneurs, Auditors, Agricultural Scientists, Renewable energy promoting NGOs – it is evident that Government support to entrepreneurship is path breaking. Tamil Nadu Startup and Innovation Policy (2018-2023), Technology hub (T- HUB) of Telangana Government which is also India’s largest incubation for startups are few examples how state Governments are building vibrant entrepreneurship ecosystem.
On the one hand, Government policies usher startup ecosystem but on the other end, innovators and agripreneurs are yet to pace up their speed.
Swiggy, India’s largest online food ordering and delivery service has managed to rise its investment despite loss doubles in 2017-2018, thanks to their scale of business
Mr Parvez Alam, CEO of Crescent Innovation and Incubation Forum puts, Innovation, as third important criteria necessary for startup – after scalability of products and credential of founders – while speaking in the TABIF workshop. “But we are focusing on the other way round,” he adds . He quotes example as how Swiggy, India’s largest online food ordering and delivery service has managed to rise its investment despite loss doubles in 2017-2018, thanks to their scale of business, similarly several startup founders like Sachin Bansal, Kunal Bahl of Snapdeal have developed a credibility face for their startup’s as founders.
Mr Jagannathan, Coordinator of Innovation Voucher Program (IVP) of Tamil Nadu Government presented about the Program in TABIF workshop. IVP was started to enhance innovation in MSMEs and startups for creating commercial viable products and services. It is targeted to produce 400 entrepreneurs annually but it has very few takeaway that too in double digits.
This shows that agri entrepreneurship is plagued with wrong priorities and poor utilisation of government support. In the second case, there needs to be a greater awareness about government policies to youth and college students.
Agri Incubators – linking multiple stakeholders
Here comes the role of incubators, the number of incubators dedicated only to agriculture is miserably less in India. NABARD has launched project for agri business incubation centres to identify and support successful start-up entrepreneurship in identified sectors. Such incubations are functioning in Agriculture College and Research Institute (MABIF), MANAGE AC & ABC Incubation centre, Hisar University etc., and there are few state government sponsored Incubation centres focused on Agriculture sector.
“Agribusiness Incubators are performing better roles in Innovation readiness and Technology readiness, but the real focus has to be on industry readiness and market research,” Dr. Ramaswamy, Innovator and also a Mentor of agripreneurs said while speaking in MABIF workshop.
The catalytic role brought out by emerging agri startups will help to change the fate of farmers not only in India but across the world
“Incubators should critically evaluate the proposals of innovators and they should be open to say ‘No’ to project that couldn’t be scaled and unviable.” said Mr Bhupesh Kumar, Director (Food and Agriculture) of Telangana Government. He further said that hesitation to critically comment on project for sympathetic reasons at screening stage would dampen their innovation itself.
Thus, with clear sky of startup ecosystem and enabling government policies it is the onus of incubators to nurture young entrepreneurs and to network them with different stakeholders like agri experts, academic faculties, creditors and most importantly with farmers. Similarly more awareness has to be generated to agriculture college students about the agritech startup programme through incubators.
The catalytic role brought out by emerging agri startups will help to change the fate of farmers not only in India but across the world. And, Yes, Agri startups have a better future in India if youth are ready to disrupt the ecosystem and bring innovations.
Editorial by Ramsundar M IFS,
Founding Editor of IMoT Agri Media Group