Dr. Danish Tamuly, Director on Board NEATEHUB/ Asst. Professor, Dept. of Soil Science, AAU
‘Entrepreneurship’ has, in the present times, gained a lot of ground and created a buzz among the youth of the country. India, being the youngest nation with 29 years as the median age of the population, can become the next hot spot of innovation in the coming times if the right ingredients in building such a mindset are nurtured at a young age. The role of the university or any higher education institute shall be to provide an ambiance for encouraging, nurturing, tending and supporting critical thinking. As the adage goes ‘as challenges increase, the opportunity to address the challenges also increases’, history has time and again highlighted that wherever people are exposed to challenges, enterprising mindset hatches eventually, and gives rise to innovative solutions.
Consider for instance, Israel where rainfall is very scanty, that nation has evolved a sophisticated drip irrigation system for agriculture over time, and this has been emulated by countries globally. Not too distant far in our own country, the state of Gujarat too has myriad problems viz., water scarcity, salinity, degraded lands, desertification, etc, but one would find the most enterprising solutions from Gujratis. While back home in the northeastern states, we have had the luxury of all the natural resources at our disposal, this however has led to complacency. We had been blessed with bountiful of water (pukhuri in every household), fertile soils, mineral resources like coal, limestone, petroleum hydrocarbon, abundant forest resources, less population pressure, etc. however, these assets barring a few has been under utilized and to an extent only exploited to serve narrow objectives. Present times are confronted with plethora of problems viz., climate change, soil, water, air pollution, deforestation, soil degradation, antimicrobial resistance, food contamination, population pressure et al. These challenges if seen through the lens of an entrepreneur are not challenges but rather opportunities to innovate ideas to address systemic issues. A great idea is one where a confluence of business, technology, and customer happens. Conversely, an idea that is usable, valuable and feasible can make a greater contribution towards wealth creation and employment generation for the region in particular and the nation in general.
Indian Council of Agricultural Research has stimulated the importance of agri-entrepreneurship in the undergraduate course curriculum modified in the 5th Dean’s committee report. ELP (Experiential Learning Programme) comprising of different production packages viz., post-harvest processing, floriculture, tea, and value-added tea product, biofertilizer production, mushroom production, etc has exposed the student fraternity to ‘earning while learning’! However, the marketing aspect has been missed out. Adoption of new technologies in the field of packaging, digital marketing, legal issues like company structure, licensing and regulatory norms, environmental clearance, taxation, finances, etc has to also be given emphasis. Students should be made confident by infusing these crucial yet often neglected aspects of doing business so that they are a confident lot to start their ventures post their graduation. The role of the university could be to create skill-ready workforce that can build their own enterprise with the acquired knowledge. Entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial mindset development of these budding agri-graduates would need trainers from beyond the university and existing resources. While university can provide the necessary technical throughput, experts from industries, established entrepreneurs, startups, innovators, soft skill trainers, IoT, MI, VL trainers et. al would be beyond the university’s bandwidth. This would be asking for too much from a university that is laden with its core duty of teaching, research, and extension. An agribusiness incubator has the mandate to offer services in the areas of infrastructural facilities, co-working space, dry and wet lab, mentoring support, technology transfer, access to funds and grants.
NEATEHUB (Northeast Agri Technology Entrepreneurs Hub) under the aegis of Assam Agricultural University, Jorhat is an Atal Incubation Centre under the Atal Innovation Mission of NITI Aayog, Government of India. It has also been recognized as Centre of Excellence (CoE) under the flagship scheme RKVY-RAFTAAR (Rashtriya Vikas Yojana- Remunerative Approaches for Agri and Allied Sector Rejuvenation) by Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare, Government of India. The vision of NEATEHUB is to nurture ideas that have an element of innovation, while has the potential to create employment and wealth. It provides a way to prepare to make one’s startup dream a reality.