– Dr. K. Karthikeyen CEO – NEATEHUB
It was estimated that by 2020, 63% of India’s population will be getting into the “working age” category, as per the Report of the Expert Committee on Innovation and Entrepreneurship, NITI Aayog (in 2015). The report further states that the working-age population would grow by 69 million between 2012 to 2022. In short, it means is that the country is required to create 69 million appropriate jobs, which will be in addition to jobs that are required for those who are currently unemployed. As the creation of new jobs in the government sector can hardly be a fraction of what is needed, enabling the formation of new businesses will be the only viable option to absorb any incremental workforce. Therefore, rapidly developing and sustaining a vibrant entrepreneurial habitat will be critical to India’s strategy for growth and economic development.
In this growth story, the importance attached to the progress of agribusiness sectors is paramount not just from the economic aspect alone, but the sheer workforce that it contributes to. The last few years have witnessed a spurt of companies that have an element of “agri-tech” in them. These new companies, interestingly, have been started by people from non-Agri backgrounds! Another commonality amongst these companies is that they are exploring new-age, innovative solutions to old-age problems which have been plaguing the agriculture sector – whose constituents largely resisted technology-based solutions for a plethora of reasons. Most of these agri-tech companies are relying on technology, artificial intelligence and machine learning innovations to simplify and bring about greater efficiency in value addition and supply chain logistics to supply produce from farm to fork, from markets to retail stores. To leverage it to the fullest, the Government of India has been encouraging startup companies to venture into agribusinesses and have formulated policies to enable the creation of a necessary ecosystem for providing support to such enterprises and innovations.
What is a Startup Incubator and what is its relevance in the context of agribusiness in India?
The very word “incubate” resonates with a “bird sitting on her eggs, hatching them, caring and nurturing them – enabling them to take shape, learn, grow and fly out!” In the context of business too, an incubator has a similar purpose and intent – to allow a fledgling business to be given ambient ‘environment and resources’, nurture and care for its growth until they learn to move on from the incubator as successful enterprises. Business Incubators are designed to help early-stage startup companies to establish themselves, and stand up on their own. So, in a way, they perform the role of a catalyst, a facilitator and in some instances, as an “Accelerator”. They have the right mix of programmes, trainings, mentoring and advisory processes that enable startups to structure their business and make them “investment-ready” for potential investors. The North-East Agriculture Technology Entrepreneurs Hub (NEATEHUB) is an Atal Innovation Centre of NITI Aayog, Government of India and set up under the aegis of the Assam Agricultural University (AAU) in its Jorhat campus, intending to support startups in the Agri and allied-Agri sectors across the North East Region. The NEATEHUB is also a Centre of Excellence of the Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare, Government of India and is supporting the setting up of Agri-Business Incubators in Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, and Tripura. NEATEHUB is also an institutional partner to Assam Startup – The NEST. The NEATEHUB encourages innovation and urges startups to contact us for further information.