Agri-allied ventures as agri-business

    26-May-2021
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Nongthombam Devachandra
Introduction : ‘Agripreneurs’ would refer to those entrepreneurs who engage or claim to engage themselves in any agri-allied ventures not as hobby but as an occupation to generate income. Those activities are broadly termed as “Agri Business”. As per RBI’s lending policy, agricultural activities are those ventures associated with ‘Jamin, Jal, Janwar & Jungle-4Js’ i.e soil, water, animals & birds and forestry related. However, those activities ought to be legally acceptable and socially agreed upon in the area of establishment. The 4Js cover almost all the aspects of Agri-allied sectors. Food Industries and Food Processing Industries have been ‘administratively’ classified as “indirect agriculture”. For an agripreneur, agribusiness could be direct or indirect. Generally agripreneurs are the educated, learned individuals with most of them having Agri-allied educational background and IIMs-IITs fraternities. In recent time, youth from engineering background are also venturing in to the Agri business. That too, with greater visible success. It is quite encouraging to have them in farming world. However, the issue is their own sustainability in their chosen occupation.
It would be relevant to cite an illustration on being ‘best among equals’. We know cheetah is regarded as the fastest animal on earth. When 100 cheetahs of similar age and built are allowed to have a race, will all the 100 cheetahs reach the finishing line at the same time ? Never, this is the message. Each one of them differs from the rest even though they belong to same group. The same is true and applicable for agripreneurs-the equally qualified and enthusiastic individuals. So, they need to endeavour to be the best amongst the equals to sustain in their chosen venture.
The agripreneurs have the enthusiasm but preparedness is of utmost importance especially in the early stages of starting his/her agribusiness. It is a fact that many of the individuals either shift their venture or abruptly abandon for a ‘job/ service’. While this is also a normal trend in any enterprise, the attrition rate is quite high amongst the new generation agripreneurs. They come with high expectations before starting but they encounter uncertain risks of agriculture or of the business venture etc. Sometimes peer pressure drives them off from the venture. They need to be sensitized to be the best amongst equals treating every stakeholder as partners not competitors for their sustainability. They are the driving force to give a facelift to the general impression that ‘Agriculture is always associated with poverty, rural life, struggling for life, etc.’ We have come a long way from conventional farming to hi-tech agriculture where Artificial Intelligence (AI) is adopted effectively and selectively in Agri-allied sectors with success. This needs to be focussed on these agripreneurs. They need to realize that Agri-allied sectors in the country have come a long way. There are farmers who are leading equally prosperous lives as those of other occupations. However, it is also a bitter truth that lives of agricultural land-less labourers need to be uplifted with our venturing. It’s high time that ‘Agriculture’ is freed from the clutches of ‘politicizing’. Agribusiness is an enterprise where we partner with mother nature !
Our agribusiness endeavours should be to focus more on the enterprises that would directly or indirectly help the farming community in the country. For instance, doing simply the trading business of ‘California almond’ imported from USA would hardly help almond growers in the country. Importing apple from Japan, Kiwi from New Zealand, dates from Saudi Arabia, etc. would only create business stress amongst our farmers. Instead, the agripreneurs can look for the specific produce/ products cultivated in particular region in the country and do their business. They can reach out to the un-reached zones. This would definitely be a “Win-Win” situation for all. There are broadly two groups of stakeholders in agri food supply chain (AFSC): conventional and unconventional stakeholders. Conventional stakeholders are those whose presence and involvement in the AFSC is essential. The absence of a conventional stakeholder greatly affects the whole chain with varying degree of influence. They include farmers (primary producers), agri-allied professionals and institutions, nurseries, input dealers, food processing industries etc.
As an agripreneur, one needs to ponder upon where one can perform one’s business venture most efficiently- with lesser efforts yielding maximum outcome! In short, ‘what is my cup of tea ?. There is tremendous business opportunity in- pre-production, production, post production, pre-marketing, and marketing till consumption. One can simply be good ‘aggregator’ of farm produces collected from a group of farmers and engage in sorting, grading and packaging before ‘home delivery’. He/She can earn handsomely !
On the other hand, unconventional stakeholders in an Improved Agri Supply Chain would include: Bank; Travel agencies; Doctors; Project Consultants; Police/Traffic/ Security Forces; Journalists/Media/ Publishers; Tools and Machinery manufacturers; Artificial Intelligence; Electronic based- drone based practices; Social/Civil Organizations; Couriers; Road Construction Agency etc. For these ‘un-conventional stakeholders, agriculture is not their ‘core’ business. Their sustenance does not depend upon Agri Supply Chain, but the sustenance of Agri Supply chain depends on these stakeholders in one way or the other. It is advisable that the new generation agripreneurs decide where they want to be- either as one of these stakeholders themselves or an entrepreneur that assists one or few stakeholders to generate income. For this to accomplish they have to understand the ‘SWOT’- Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and Threat associated with his/her chosen enterprise. There is not a single enterprise which is free from challenges. Understanding the strength and opportunity after analysing weaknesses and threats could be the turning point. The following is few of the many myths and mistakes perceived and committed by agripreneurs:
a) Agri-allied is the ONLY venture affected by rain!
b) When they start they feel “Doing favour to farming community”
c) Govts./Line Depts./ICAR/AUs etc. do not extend help.
d) Banks/ FIs don’t show interest in financing!
e) There should be grant/subsidy all the time.
f) Agri Business is ‘Come one come all’ venture!
g) I can do all alone without taking help from anyone.
h) Honesty has ‘no role’ in agribusiness growth.
i) It can’t be a permanent venture. Such advice and opinion from peers and elders dishearten them.

(To be contd)