Technology can play a key role in encouraging rural entrepreneurship and generate greater employment in rural areas. This was the main takeaway from the plenary session on Innovating Rural Entrepreneurship towards employment, of the 26th edition of the India Economic Summit being jointly organized by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the World Economic Forum at New Delhi on Monday. Panelists at the session were of the view that there was a need to leverage technology in a bigger way to derive benefits for the large number of poorer sections in India.
Mr. O P Bhatt, Chairman, State Bank of India said that in recent year there has been a substantial positive change in India led by technology and greater awareness of people, however, there was a need for all the institutions in India – the private sector, the government, the Banks and the non-Banks to work together to achieve greater benefits for the poor. He further added that a large number of people at the bottom of the pyramid in India offer great opportunity for the private sector. “Size of the problem is a great opportunity”, he said.
Mr. Arvind Mayaram, Additional Secretary and Financial Adviser, Ministry of Rural Development of India, expressed the need for greater Public private Partnership (PPP) to develop entrepreneurship in rural areas. He also added that since many of the rural areas in India lack of connectivity; there was a need for risk sharing between the private sector and the government. To exploit technology for the benefit of rural poor, the government has been taking several initiatives, which includes plans for connecting all the Panchayats in India through broadband by March 2012. He also talked about the plans to provide biometric cards to all the workers under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, to bring more transparency in the implementation of the scheme. The one big idea that the government is working on is creating rural infrastructure through government funding, but built and serviced by the private sector. Private sector
stakeholders would be responsible for providing infrastructure support services and the quality of delivery would be monitored by the government. This PPP model would enable the implementation of President Abdul Kalam’s vision of highly advanced rural nodes that connect India’s villages to the global economy.
Mr. Ben J Verwaayen, Chief Executive Officer, Alcatel Lucent, France, expressed the need to take an opportunistic approach and look at the problems of India as a huge opportunity. “Size of the problem is so big that it is not a problem but an opportunity”, he said. It makes a lot of business sense to provide services to close to 700 million people living in rural areas in India, he said.
Ms. Elisabeth Comstock, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, General Electric Company, USA, said there was a need to develop best technology and use it to serve poor and added that there was a need to keep the needs of poor in mind while innovating technology. Cost reduction as a target can contribute significantly towards innovation, she said. GE efforts in developing India specific products that cut costs but maintain quality is a model that is helping GE deliver across geographies replicating their products and business models across other emerging markets.
Ms. Ellen Kullman, Chair of the Board and Chief Executive Officer, DuPont, USA said that farmers require a lot of support system to be productive. For example in soil testing and weather forecast for which technology can be leveraged. She added that new technology like bio-technology can significantly contribute towards raising the productivity of farmers.
Mr. Sriram Raghavan, Chief Executive Officer, Comat Technologies, India felt that there was no need for Government to be in the business and added that the Government hould just facilitate this process. Government should needs to provide only enabling services, he said.