Creating entrepreneurs at the grassroots

PUBLISH DATE 5th September 2018

Rural entrepreneurship is best undertaken by the rural youth, say experts training them in the field. The rural population today is 70% which will reduce to 50%, indicating huge migration towards the cities. "This can be stopped by making youngsters look for opportunities already existing in their villages," says Manav Subodh, co-founder of 1 Million for 1 Billion (1M1B).

Subodh's enterprise - based in India, Vietnam and the US is aligned to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) to focus on two key initiatives: Future Leaders, which is a 45 hour curriculum to develop leadership, entrepreneurship and job readiness skills.

Another startup Gurukool, a village co-innovation and testing lab takes innovations to the grassroots by co-creating business model with people in the villages. "In the last 3 years, we have trained over 110 young leaders and 50 plus entrepreneurs who have created jobs for more than 118 people and enhanced income of 328 plus people from underserved regions. We aim to democratise entrepreneurship education which is available to only a select few." His take on entrepreneurship is to take learning beyond the classroom.

But rural entrepreneurship need not be rooted in villages when products, innovation and services from the cities are provided to suit the rural ecosystem, says Nipun Mehrotra, chief digital officer, IBM India. "Around 60% of the companies who have utilised our digital platforms are from Tier II cities which only goes to show the increasing digital adoption from non-metros and expanding business opportunities in India's small towns," Mehrotra adds.

Rama Shankar Pandey, managing director of Hella India Lighting Ltd says, "If amenities of metro cities find a way in rural markets, youths will stay in smaller towns. We need a pool of trainers to teach local value creation ecosystem. Mentoring will yield better results if it is strategically matched with local requirements."

Pandey's own experience is based on his company's forays in the field. "The three branches of our academy in villages of Andhra trains underprivileged youths, many of them have started their own enterprise in vehicle servicing and maintenance, others have dealerships in tier II & III cities to succeed by having skilled technicians. This stops local customers from going to larger cities for their vehicle servicing needs," he adds.

As long as entrepreneurship is tailored to suit local needs, it can help skill the youth to start their own ventures and earn a good livelihood.

Ruling the villages

I belong to an agricultural family from Purappemane village, Karnataka. Though I graduated from MITE college in Moodabidre with a BE in Mechanical Engineering and was initially inclined to work in the cities. I realised the need for exchange of resources between villages and cities for better sustainability. Following the Startup Gurukul fellowship, I formed the Dairy Co-operative Society in Belagera village where we have connected with the Karnataka Milk Federation (KMF) for the procurement of daily produced milk. At present, we have formed a co-operative society with a strength of 100 members which covers 80-100 milk farmer households.

— Manjunatha GN

I am from Modekurru village in Andhra Pradesh with a choir products startup, employing 30 people of which 15 are women. Though I completed my BE in Mechanical Engineering from JNTU (Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University, Kakinada), I decided to work towards a better environment. Having set up my choir products unit which today makes choir handicrafts, yarn, pith and organic manure, I have an annual turnover of almost Rs 1 core. Today, the women in my unit earn Rs 200/day while there was a time when they were sitting idle with nothing much to do.

— Krishna Sai


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