It’s high time we face it!! Must Redefine Priorities in Indian Agri…

Published: Sep 17, 2017

Author: Amit Banka


Indian Agricultural Facts that no one can deny –

 

15 of the 20 agri-climatic regions and 46 of the 60 soil types in the world, exist in India.

Second largest producer of wheat, rice, fruits & vegetables, sugarcane, cotton & oilseeds. Food Grain production of around 274 MT (FY17)

Largest producer of spices, pulses, milk, tea, cashew & jute,

Holds second largest agricultural land in the world – 157.35 million hectares.

Employs over ~50% of the country’s workforce and supports over 60% of the rural households

 

Traditionally, this sector has been the backbone of Indian economy. Cheap labour, good natural irrigation, varied climatic conditions, availability of raw material, huge local consumption are some of the reasons this has been possible. However, the GDP contribution from this sector is just around 15-17%

 

While evaluating this further to dwell upon the challenges faced by this sector, we often focus on the lack of mechanisation, low yields, uncertain monsoons, fragmented land ownership, subsistence nature of farming, and so on. But that’s not all. There are several other un-conventional, but poignant challenges. This note essentially tries to touch upon the business challenges that do not surface unless probed deeply, one of them is – Team Building in Agri or Agri based Industry

 

Despite various positives, the sector faces employment challenges and visible downturn in number of people employed. This is visible in the employment trends between the year 2011 and 2015 where the overall employment in the country reported growth of around 7 million jobs but primarily in the Non-Agri sectors. Such a trend could be attributed to lower investments at large scale farm level activities, lower than expected inroads of quality Agri based industries that focuses on value add (outside of variants and value add to rice and wheat), urban migration, lower farm yields, etc etc. One can argue that this trend as it includes farm level jobs too, could be due to higher mechanisation in the field of agriculture, but the stats of lower contribution to GDP does not support the argument.

 

Hiring Dynamics

 

Identifying and hiring quality people (for the non-farm activity) in this sector, undoubtedly, is one the most daunting tasks, primarily for Agro based industries. Everyone expects to hire the “right” person for the job but in the fields like Agronomy, Soil science, plant anatomy, logistics, tissue culture, procurement management, material handling, R&D, etc take this challenge a several notches higher.

 

Another interesting observation we came across while hiring was that the majority of people with relevant experience are employed with the CSR divisions or an NGO. Also, they aren’t too keen on moving out to private business outfits. The reasons for this – may be, we don’t know.

Today, education in agriculture and related core function inherent to Agri based business is something that would sound absurd to the millions looking forward to their career plans. Why is that so? We pondered upon various such questions and attempted to answer them with our limited wisdom and experience in this field but cannot substantiate with empirical data or research.

Is there a lack of awareness about the potential in the industry? - Jury is still out… Probably Yes!!

Has Agri, in general, suffered from lack of opportunity and growth visible to an individual before he embarks on his career journey… Most Definitely!!

Are there lesser Agri based industries in India that has given impetus to quality professionals with relevant backgrounds. - Yes and no focus on manpower development with required skills

In India, every state is required to have an Agricultural College but are they doing justice to the changing requirement of this sector? Clear answer is no

Is this sector offering enough motivation for people to consider opportunities seriously? No - else there was no room for these questions.

 

There are many more such questions. But the point remains –

 

How do you plan an agri-based business in India with lack of quality people?

Does the government need to focus on this challenge for long term growth of the sector – through education, innovation, R&D Labs, sector promotion, etc?

Is the controversial farm loan waiver by various state governments the only way to show solidarity to this sector? [Don’t see motives aligned here… and that’s a different topic for some other day]

Is the private sector expected to come up with a joint programme to uplift quality of people? If Not, then who will?

Skill development through various organisations/ NGOs is driven solely because of government subsidies. But the moot point is - where is the opportunity for this trained work force? Cannot achieve nirvana until these trained people get employers in this sector in the times to come?

Are we to rely on foreign advancements in technology forever and not encourage innovation in a field like agriculture where India has abundant resources but insufficient educated workforce? 

Look forward to more insights from professionals from the sector. We remain committed to this space and hopefully, we will soon have answers to a few questions.

 


Posted In: Business Transformation

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