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Agribusiness: Professionals On The Farm Field
Agribusiness management studies is a booming stream to which eager beaver startups tend to flock
Photo Credit : Shutterstock
Do what you can, with what you have, where you are,” said the 26th President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt. That may just be the way in which the discipline of management studies in agribusiness is evolving.
At the moment the Agricultural Education System in India comprises specialised management institutions, State Agricultural Universities (SAUs), deemed universities and related institutions. These institutions are now readying the next generation of agribusiness leaders and managers for the changing dynamics of agro-economics and agribusiness.
The Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIMA) is a torch-bearer in introducing management programmes in agribusiness. The discipline of Agribusiness Management has also been introduced as a separate and independent academic discipline by other agricultural universities and institutions in India, like the Faculty of Management Sciences of the Benaras Hindu University (BHU).
“Modern agriculture (globally and nationally) is moving away from the standard ‘Farmer Producer - Middleman/Trader - Consumer’ model,” says Ranjan Ghosh, Assistant Professor at IIMA. “It is increasingly adopting a value chain approach, where aggregators and entrepreneurs are entering into territories hitherto unknown or unexplored,” he says, “traditionally controlled by the middleman-trader nexus.”
Nilabja Ghosh, Professor, Institute of Economic Growth (IEG) points out that agribusiness management is broadly speaking, a field that has not been much explored academically. “It is complicated and heterogeneous,” she says. She feels that the curriculum could have more specialisations, which the stakeholders could help build. “Farmers, the younger generation must join the education,” Ghosh says, “farmers, traders, processors scientists, food technologists and academics all need to participate in the discipline for the subject to evolve.”
The latest available records of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) do show a rapid surge in interest in higher education in agricultural studies in India. The trend gets a fillip from the growing number of startups in agribusiness. To be able to own and manage agribusiness enterprises of global standards, startups need to be spearheaded by professionals equipped with the necessary management skills and experience. “There are a healthy number of startups in the field of agricultural supply chain optimisation and procurement, technology assistance, food packaging, farming method improvement, and also in services such as pest control, storage etc.,” says Ranjan Ghosh. Concurrence on the numbers may vary, but there is no doubt that there is a rapid growth in new ventures in agribusiness – enough to create a rush over management programmes in agribusiness. The surging interest in the field is giving rise to new and innovative programmes. The International Crops Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics, for instance, is creating benchmarks in incubation along with the IIMA.
Bharat Bhasker, Director, IIM Raipur, points out that “application and adoption of these new innovations require fitment with the local cultural context and environment”. Students of agribusiness management have plenty of opportunities in spheres like farming, agricultural marketing, food processing, supply chain management, dairying and retailing in national and multinational corporations.
While the list of institutions offering courses in agribusiness and the number of graduates grows every year, experts point to the need for quality in the courses. Y. K. Alagh, Chancellor, Gujarat Central University and a leading rural economics expert, points to the recent Patidar movement of Gujarat. “It is the quality of training in pass-outs that matters,” says Alagh.
A National Academy for Agriculture Sciences (NAAS) report once critically examined India’s agri- education system. It said “Dilution in the quality has been, mainly, due to an imbalance in the academic staff structure of the universities/ institutions. The recruitment policy, and also the policy of freezing new recruitment, needs to be reviewed as presently about 40 per cent of posts are lying vacant in these institutions.”
Ranjan Ghosh is even more critical of the education system and calls for a major facelift of farm varsities in the country. He feels that the responsibility for ensuring quality in education in agribusiness and post-qualification assistance rests more with the state governments than the Central government. Ghosh points out that the manner in which the agriculture sector is organised is changing rapidly. This restructuring, he says, was for the good, as long as it helped farmers earn a higher share of the total value generated and increased jobs for India’s youth.
Academics concur that to create new energy around agribusiness, all stakeholders the universities, cooperatives, FPOs, export market agents, investors, etc. and the government need to come together.