There is a need to strengthen the rural ecosystem to encourage startups in rural areas with a view to create jobs and provide additional income support to agrarian sector, Minister of State for Finance Anurag Singh Thakur said. Unemployment is a major challenge faced by rural youth due to lack of skill and education, he said. “There is a large number of agriculture-based startups today. We need to strengthen rural startup ecosystem to encourage setting up of more rural startups by rural youth. “Various government agencies are promoting and engaging capacity building of startups, incubators, specially in agri and allied activities,” he said while inaugurating Nabard’s 38th Foundation Day function here. However, he said, keeping in view the low rate of technology adoption in agriculture sector, it is crucial to enable seamless hybridisation of relevant technology by building a sustainable distribution model.
Startups will help promote alternate income generation in rural areas, he said. “India needs to create agripreneurs for which skilling and tech-enabled services are crucial. Agri-based e-commerce platforms, farm monitoring, linking with fintech will help make youths become agripreneurs. “While the government is supporting the sector significantly, public-private partnership is essential for boosting the agriculture startup culture in India, which could be a new engine for employment,” he said.
Pointing out that the government’s focus is on ‘Gaon, Garib and Kisan’, he said, big investment has been lined up and private sector support is required for building rural infrastructure. With regard to e-NAM platform, he said, some changes have taken place and more needs to be done to make it more efficient so that farmers can directly sell their produce and get better price.
Thakur further said the government is committed to achieving USD 5 trillion economy by 2024-25. “We will together achieve this and bring India in the top four economies in the world,” he said. Speaking on the occasion, Finance Ministry Additional Secretary Debashish Panda said becoming a USD 5 trillion economy in five years is a challenging task, but achievable. “Let us resolve today to double our efforts to achieve the desired growth and make this country a USD 5 trillion economy. It can only happen if rural economy also starts growing at that rate,” Panda said. He said the finance ministry has done a lot of work in the last 5 years towards achieving the objective of banking the unbanked and securing the unsecured.
Banks have opened 36 crore Jan Dhan accounts with balance crossing Rs 1 lakh crore and and 15 crore people have joined low premium insurance scheme designed by the government. National Bank For Agriculture And Rural Development(Nabard) Chairman Harsh Kumar Bhanwala said the bank would fund around 100 agricultural and rural startups during current financial year which would boost innovations and farm entrepreneurship.
The organisation would infuse around Rs 1,000 crore into agri and rural startup ecosystem, he said, adding, a separate subsidiary company –NABVENTURES — floated by Nabard will help achieve this. Nabard has presently supported 16 Alternative Investment Funds (AIFs) with Rs 272 crore to finance over 50 agri enterprises.
The newly-launched NABVENTURES to finance new start ups has already launched its first fund with a targeted corpus of Rs 500 crore with green shoe option of Rs 200 crore. The first closure of the fund is over with an investment of Rs 200 crore from Nabard, he said, adding it will focus on investments in early mid stage startups in agriculture, agri tech, food and rural businesses.