Fortune at the bottom of the Pyramid: A case for “Acchey Din” Mr. Prime Minister
Dr Anoop Swarup
Is there fortune at the bottom of the pyramid? Yes indeed, I raise the question notwithstanding the assertion of Raghuram Rajan, the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, who made a case before the Bankers that there was no fortune at the bottom and therefore not to look for it but only to seek reasonable profits. I would beg to differ and almost certainly go with C K Prahalad and Stuart L Hart who had made a strong case to the contrary in the Journal Strategy+ Business almost a decade ago that there indeed was fortune at the bottom of the pyramid and it is for us to make the best of the opportunity.
Obviously enough in our country the opportunity is there for a hitherto unrecognized and undiscovered world of prosperity in the heartland of rural India that can be unleashed for its unrealized potential. I foresee the wind of change that is now blowing across the rural landscape in our country and the dynamism of our youth and our entrepreneurial men and women that had unfortunately gone untapped over the years. We see that in recent years there has been an unprecedented rise in emerging opportunities and employment generation in rural India. In a recent report submitted to the Prime Minister, the potential to generate employment opportunities have been highlighted as there is a projected annual demand of 100 lakh additional vocational capacity necessary to cope with the rising demand for workers in rural India who have to be trained for country’s future needs. The unemployed as well as the underemployed in our country in terms of policy recommendations and opportunities have to be skilled on an urgent basis so that the demographic dividend is brought in line with the emerging opportunities. No wonder that the rising rural prosperity levels have been estimated to generate at least 100 million additional and self employment opportunities both in formal and non formal sectors in our country. There emphasis has to be on agriculture, animal husbandry, agro-industry, rural services and related vocations.
The Indian economy generates every year about seven million employment opportunities more so in rural settings but there is a lack of accurate information both in terms of numbers and places. With the rise in the productivity of Indian agriculture, crop yields have almost doubled in a decade and improving plant nutrition through micro-nutrient analysis and improving irrigation through deep chiseling of soil has resulted in a tripling of crop yields necessitating a three-fold increase in the requirement of farm technicians and labour force. The rise in rural incomes consequential to the rise in productivity has unleashed a multiplier effect with increase in the demand for farm and non-farm products thus stimulating opportunities for growth of other service sectors.
There is an increasing realization that Indian agriculture is constrained by weak linkages between agriculture training and extension, crop production, farm credit and insurance programmes, creation of linkages between crop insurance, crop loans, and farm school training and improved cultivation practices means an emerging prospect for a new breed of young professionals. This would also entail a requirement for prospective artisans who may range from agriculture graduates, management and marketing graduates, entrepreneurs and change agents. On another important front, rise in rural prosperity, with more and better health care products being introduced, require medical and paramedic staff to man the primary health centres and the various pathology labs in rural areas. Similarly investment both public and private that includes road connectivity through the Pradhan Mantri Gramin Sadak Nirman Yojana and the construction of offices and residential accommodation is the need of the hour in almost all the states. Similarly water, sanitation, hygiene now being resourced through the Swach Bharat Abhiyan that has seen a quantum jump in investments from both the State and the Central Government would require both civil engineering and architectural professionals apart from the ITI and polytechnic trained youth. There is concomitant requirement in both traditional and non-traditional sources such as Solar, Wind, Biogas, Biofuels and Geothermal as also the mining and resource sectors have seen a dramatic rise necessitating huge investments both from private and public resources thus requiring huge demand on both engineering and skilled manpower for construction and manning of the utilities and services. On the Sports, Tourism and Adventure front considering the huge interest in India particularly for offbeat places and the fact that the Ministry of Youth affairs and Sports as also the Ministry of Tourism and Culture have a strategic plan for investments in a big way through its network of Hotels, Archaeological Sites, World Heritage sites and places of historical interest the Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Tourism as also the Sports Authority of India and the Nehru Yuvak Kendras, have projected an increasing demand for sportsmen and women both amateurs and professionals as also hospitality and tourism professionals who will contribute to the massive demand as also participation in national and international events for the country. Let us now examine the literacy and education front where in keeping with our resolve to be a developed nation there is a dire necessity to educate and empower rural masses both on the adult literacy front and the primary school education front thus entailing the requirement for trained teachers in virtually every field ranging from languages, sciences, mathematics and humanities to physical education and vocational education & skilling.
A recent report recommends the establishment of newer agro-processing industries, fisheries and horticulture initiatives, dairy and bee-keeping cooperatives, pomiculture and sericulture products, village-based farm schools to demonstrate the impact of advanced technology, establishment of a network of sophisticated test laboratories, high volume precision analysis of 13 essential plant nutrients, recommendation of individualized packages of cultivation practices for each crop, new agro product, location and soil profile that would necessitate well equipped professionals who will bring about reforms and revolutionize past practices. If anyone has any doubts on the requirement of computer sciences and software professionals in rural India he is in for a shock as a new study reveals that the requirements for these skilled professionals is in for a quantum jump at Block and village level. The establishment of Rural Information Centers to act as a medium for transmission of all information and its uplink to the Districts and the State Capitals in a global age is the need of the hour. Also increasingly concepts such as the ‘Sanchar Haat’ and ‘e Choupal’ where meteorology, weather and soil test data as also recommended practices, access to current input and market prices, and other essential information for upgrading agriculture, agro products, village industries and exports is now a dire necessity.
On the export front, recent policy measures to encourage handicrafts, rural arts and crafts to encourage our traditional knowledge will encourage small and medium enterprises as also help agri-business firms and self-help groups to increase access to advanced technology, quality inputs, bank credit, processing, marketing and insurance.
There will be a need for young professionals to take charge both as self employed entrepreneurs and as skilled professionals who may contribute as partners and employees in the emerging rural prosperity revolution. In keeping with the rise in rural productivity the services sector particularly in banking and finance I foresee a new wave that will be sweeping the rural heartland that is fast emerging as the final frontier to usher in a revolution for better financial and personal services, micro-credit and insurance services. There is a emerging need for professionals in the vast financial services and financial planning sector that is seeing a year on year rise of almost 25 percent and it is for the new government to make the best of it.
On the eve of the New Year 2015, now free from electoral compulsions and political posturing the time is ripe Mr. Prime Minister for a decisive government where good policy and planning backed by real governance has to be the norm as promised. In our debate on ‘India Vs Bharat’ it is high time that the Prime Minister, with the right resolve, focuses on the rural heartland that is the real Bharat to bring in ‘Acchey Din’ (good days). Indeed it is the highly qualified professionals who are ready to work in rural settings who have to be encouraged and inspired to not only ‘make in India’ but more importantly to realize the ‘made in India’ dream come true. This would be a very welcome coming of age of India’s development and thought agenda and in no less a measure an omen for the change that would take the world by storm and the vision of Mahatma Gandhi will not be too distant a dream that ‘the future of India would be in its villages”.