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Rediscovering The Business Potential Of Rural India

It is important to introduce a commercial paradigm to the rural market, which addresses the social needs of the community, provides easy access to credit and generates profit. Certain factors must be kept in mind

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Rural entrepreneurship plays a big role in helping meet India’s developmental goals, from generating employment, to preserving and promoting traditional handlooms and handicrafts. Investing in rural India benefits our social fabric while modernising and opening up new opportunities within traditional sectors like agriculture, poultry, handicrafts and food processing, to name a few. Yet, investors remain reluctant due to paucity of resources like skilled labour, reliable power supply, connectivity, transport etc. Perhaps the bigger deterrent to the development of rural entrepreneurship is the prevalent perception that it is unprofitable.  

While rural India’s entrepreneurial spirit and capacity to innovate is high, what is required is definitive government policies, financial inclusion and investments and the development of community institutions and support groups at the grassroots level. However, the current model of development primarily focuses on building infrastructure and creating employment opportunities in urban areas. Over the decades, the socio-economic marginalization has pushed the rural areas outside the purview of development.  A majority of these communities continue to be plagued with limited resources, ineffective welfare schemes, poor access to affordable healthcare and lack of education opportunities. The imbalance between the growth policies for rural vis-a-vis urban populations has led to unsustainable development, a breakdown of traditional rural values and practices and a mass migration of rural youth to urban areas, in a desperate hunt for employment.

In order to ensure inclusive growth in the economy, it is critical to focus on empowering rural India. The first step is to ensure that the key stakeholders i.e. the state, the market, and the civil society collaborate in an effective manner. A structured partnership between the three components can help create livelihood opportunities that are not limited to agriculture alone. It can enable communities to independently identify solutions for local challenges. 

To ensure Rural Entrepreneurship thrives:

It is important to introduce a commercial paradigm to the rural market, which addresses the social needs of the community, provides easy access to credit and generates profit. Certain factors must be kept in mind:

  1. The business model must be built through direct collaboration with the rural consumers and small businesses to improve the local entrepreneurial capacity. Fruitful commercial opportunities can be created if the cultural nuances of a community are acknowledged and understood. Furthermore, one needs to ensure that the commercial venture is relevant to the needs and prevalent practices of the respective community. 

A prime example of a successful rural engagement is mirrored by Samanvai Center for Children with Multiple Disabilities. The organisation was founded by Srikanth Bolla in 2011 to address the issue of skill development for rural populations. Samanvai coaches differently-abled youth in basic computer operations, offers mobility training, and provides them with tutorial services along with financial assistance. This integrated program equips them with the tools and skills that build their employability for corporations who are looking to tap into the local market. This engagement was effective in generating knowledge while simultaneously building entrepreneurial capacity.

  1. Credit is a core component of any business venture. Most of the rural-based enterprises face challenges because of the unavailability of necessary credit. In a rural economy, a credit strategy similar to the urban sector will not be conducive. The key to effectively lend and manage credit in the rural network will be through partnerships between local entrepreneurs, micro-credit institutions and community groups such as self-help groups. These players would act as the bridge between the investors and the borrowers to maximize credit availability. 

2. Slow technology uptake and internet accessibility issues are roadblocks to the success of many rural enterprises. This issue needs to be tacked immediately through investments in building wireless infrastructure and software that breaks the barriers of accessibility and language. The internet can serve as a multipurpose platform for imaginative rural entrepreneurs to communicate directly with consumers and suppliers across the country, bridging distances and language barriers and allowing the flow if resources to and from remote areas. 

3. Lastly, it is vital that rural startups receive guidance, encouragement and care for the initial six to twelve months of their existence. Regular training, timely funding and visits from advisors and mentors is very relevant for the success of the enterprise.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Viiveck Verma...

The author is curator and licencee TEDxHyderabad

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