Agri-allied ventures as agri-business

Nongthombam Devachandra
Contd from previous issue
As an illustration for convincing that agriculture is not the only sector affected by rain, we can discuss the evolution of umbrella business or umbrella industry. Had our grandparents seen the umbrellas of our time, it would be just fantasy!
Once it was an enterprise of rainy season lasting for three-four months of the year. In recent time, the industry evolves itself enabling to run year round business, having exclusive show-room. It created demand from children, ladies; umbrellas for rain, sun etc. This is what we call entrepreneurship!
As we all are aware of Prof. Everett Rogers’ (1931-2004) curve of adoption (diffusion of innovations), we have innovators (2.5 %), early adopters (13.5 %), early majority (34%), late majority (34 %) and laggards (16%). The learning point for the new generation agripreneurs is that they ought to target 100 individuals to have 16 clients (innovators and early adopters (2.5+13.5 %), or 10,00,000 people to have 1,60,000 clients who would take their innovative ideas or products. They need not waste their resources and energy on laggards, late majority or even early majority while ‘selling’ their ideas, produce or product! It is as simple as that. Sell yourself to succeed. Approach many people; entertain many clients in the beginning of the enterprise. For we need to focus on those 2.5 % and 13.5 %.
As everyone agrees, retention or sustainability rate for agripreneurs is very less. That is, of the many agripreneurs who start their agribusiness, only few could succeed and lead a life of Agripreneurs !
When this endurance is dissected, it is observed that those who endure are the ones who start seriously and sincerely from the beginning till they grow. Those who left or shift (abandon) their venture are the ones, often, who were looking for other jobs/ service and their ventures were ‘only for part time’. So, such pyramid of business sustainability need not be worrisome for new agripreneurs ! They need to focus on what actually they desire to achieve through their chosen venture (in any of the components in the Agri Food Supply Chain: either the conventional ones or the unconventional ones). Failures have 100s of excuses but the winner has only one reason- “I just need to succeed”.
The uniqueness of North Eastern Region of India in general and Manipur in particular needs to be understood by these agripreneurs. We are having and experiencing unique problems that demand unique, innovative solutions. Therefore, we just cannot and must not simply replicate the solutions brought from other States or even other countries. Yes, we need to learn from them. But, we need to design our own. The agri food supply chain (AFSC) in the region faces numerous difficulties and challenges. These difficulties are themselves the opportunities for all. Planning/thinking on ‘how to provide a solution’ and ‘be an entrepreneur’ can help in earning a handsome income. It is fortunate that the CAU (Imphal), AAU (Jorhat), ICAR Centres, KVKs and all the State Governments are promoting agri-allied sectors in one way or the other. This is a great opportunity to avail utmost business advantages. When it was learned that an established Agripreneur from Manipur (M/s Thangjam Agro Industry) found it ‘cheaper’ for him in procuring orange/ lime concentrate from Maharashtra and Punjab, than arranging the same from the State or NER, then it gives a spark that can ignite hundreds of opportunities. ‘What I am doing myself as a Horticulture Professional?’ disturbs us searching for the answers. I am confident that the answer to this question would definitely help all the stakeholders of Citrus Supply Chain in the region. The emerging HORECAs (Hotels, Restaurants and Cafeterias) in every small, medium and big towns/ cities are actually the ‘sink’ for our produces and products. Let them grow so that we can market our produces/ products.
In the meantime, every entrepreneur ought to remain themselves bankable, credit worthy and aware of the insurance of life (self) as well as that of activities. We need capital and fund to grow and expand our business. Self finance cannot be a sustainable approach in the long run. Credit assistance is essentially required for long term sustainable business growth. Pharmacies sell medicines. Banks sell ‘loans products’. Have we come across any pharmacy that decline to sell the medicine we ask and which they have ? Yes, if we don’t have the proper prescription from appropriate physician. So, when any bank is declining my proposal/ project, then we need to understand the issues. Be bankable and creditworthy. They are expected to have sensible awareness on nitty-gritty subsidy and grants. If they do not know thoroughly, they are likely to end up suffering after availing ‘subsidy’. Subsidy and grant are to be treated as ‘staking stick’ and ‘baby walker’ never as ‘walking stick’ and ‘wheel chair’ respectively. They need to be guided appropriately. The following preparedness is advisable to them:-
a) Not to expect sympathy from any quarter. It’s business.
b) Insurance: Man & Activities. Take it as ‘bait’ for larger capital infusion.
c) Start small and escalate. “Rome was not built in a day!”.
d) Target specific ‘consumers/customers’. When cigarette business is not subsiding in spite of all negative propaganda, restrictions from Governments, then why can’t we promote produces/ products of agribusiness ?
e) Never ‘show-off’ what/how you are doing. It will only create unwanted competition in near future. Instead, consistently promote your produces/products! Create demand.
f) Focus to increase transaction through bank accounts. Lure the bankers and FIs sincerely.
g) Never take up the venture as ‘part time’ venture or as hobby and exhibit to all !
h) Never ever compare your earning with peer’s salary! Income from agribusiness (where forms of produces does not change) is exempted from Income Tax! Grab it.
As agripreneurs, they need to convince themselves that ‘Agriculture is always a blessing and never a burden’. Many pseudo-journalists claim that agriculture has become a loss making venture. If it was/ is true then are these MNCs fool to venture themselves in agribusiness in recent time investing crores of rupees? We need to understand the reality. To conclude , I would love to present the ever motivating phrase of a poem by Robert Frost:
“The woods are lovely, dark, and deep, But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep!”

The contents and ideas expressed are of the author and not of the institution where he serves