The Integrated Rural Development Programme, which was initiated in the late 1970s and implemented across the country, was the most discussed enterprise development programme for those at the bottom of the pyramid. An asset was created by a bank loan and supported by a capital subsidy from the government. And an entrepreneur was expected to repay the loan from income derived from that asset.
Programmes of this genre are being implemented by governments ever since. As a public policy, government intervention is appropriate as it must engage with the workforce since formal jobs in both public and private sectors are few. Such programmes could be more successful when our society celebrates entrepreneurs and inspires its citizens to considerchoosing the path of entrepreneurship. Our aspiration of being on the world stage can become a reality only when entrepreneurship is cherished, val ued and enterprises small and big power our economy.
While the phrase "rags to riches" is often used, eulogising entrepreneurs is not common in our culture, which prefers a job to startingan enterprise. While startups are becoming acceptable, working on rural entrepreneurship can pay huge dividends because of its outreach.
India enjoys a huge demographic dividend currently. Agriculture accommodates about 45 per cent of Our workforce, and contributes 20 per cent to our GDP. Industry is getting automated and requires fewer skilled workers. The MSME sector is a big employer. Micro enterprises comprise 93 per cent of the MSMES and mostly employ semi-skilled workers.
How do we then gainfully employ our workforce? Skilling and entrepreneurship development is the best option and micro industries could absorb the workforce from agriculture if strategised well. Here are a few ideas to imbue Our society with an entrepreneurial culture.
First, entrepreneurship is a mindset, and its orientation must begin from schools and colleges. Education typically is essentialism, whereas entrepreneurship is existentialism. Essay writing competitions on the subject every year across the country will create the necessary buzz. High school students must be encouraged to test their business ideas.
Second, India is a sub-continent and product requirements Vary across regions. About 70 per cent of the products consumed in rural areas are produced locally. Characterising and improvising such products are necessary to instill the idea of excellence and remove the thought of jugaad.
This transformation in local markets can propel exports to domestic and foreign markets. 'One District One Product initiative is in this direction. The UN'S 'Empretec programme can provide some more insights. We need to think out-of-box to fund such projects; it must not be only through bank loans.
Third, skilling must be contextualised to local needs, as opposed to general skilling like a BA or BSc course. Entrepreneurship must be institutionalised through NSDC like i mechanisms.
Fourth, boys and girls in rural schools know their ecosystem well and they should be taught elements of design and light engineering which canlead themtocreate enterprises. To illustrate, India's is mainly small-holder agriculture, butwe don't have enough ergonomically designed tools and implements for the small farmer. 'Atal Tinkering Labs' can complement this idea.
Fifth, creation of the Ministry of Skill development and Entrepreneurship on November 9, 2014, was a momentous decision. Our ITIs and tool rooms gave us valuable learnings on skilling. It's time now to start 'vocational schools' as these can promote entrepreneurial culture. To get these started, banks and industry (through the CSR channel)can be invited to participate.
Sixth, an enterprise requires a complete gamut of services legal, finance, accounts, business-related manpower, machinery,etc. Making available these resources through acommon pool will give abig boost to entrepreneurship.