Entrepreneurial opportunities in rural Odisha

By Vivek Pattanayak*

In India, more than seventy percent people live in the rural areas. The vocation is mainly related to agriculture and its subsidiary activities. Mostly the agriculturists are small and marginal farmers and agricultural labourers who constitute the substantial part of the rural population. Holdings are fragmented and not consolidated. Large number of farming families do not have ownership rights over land and they take agricultural holding for farm operation on annual lease basis. Land records are not always up to date. Cultivation is generally dependent upon rain water although some may be fortunate to have flow and lift irrigation facilities provided by the government projects and some have their own source. By and large the cultivation is grain related like paddy, minor millet and wheat although vegetable growing supplements income. Horticulture is also practiced in pockets.  

Subsistence farming in tribal areas dependent upon minor millets is another noticeable feature. Collection of minor forest produce in tribal areas is a source of income particularly Mahua flowers, Kendu leaf etc. in Odisha.

MNREGA also provides employment since the programme was introduced fifteen years ago. During floods, drought, and cyclones to mitigate distress, relief is generally provided by the government and NGOs.

Farmers depend upon credit from money lenders, cooperative credit institutions and from the public sector banks and also from the non-banking financial institutions like micro-finance institutions.

Migration of small farmers, marginal farmers and agricultural labourers beyond their immediate neighbourhood in search of employment to semi-urban, urban areas and also to metros at distant places during lean period of agriculture and even to industrial townships is a common feature. This phenomenon is mostly noticeable in non-irrigated areas.

Cities, towns , metros, urban centres are getting over congested creating slums, pollution, health hazard, serious law and order problem. Urban governance is breaking down. Life in Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Kolkota and even Bangalore once a beautiful peaceful city is increasingly becoming unsustainable contrast to condition in the fifties in Kolkata, sixties in Mumbai and seventies Delhi. Prevention of migration to urban centres by creating employment opportunities in rural areas will be the answer to this problem.

In this background, one needs to explore what prospects do exist for development of rural entrepreneurship for sustainable and durable economic growth which would provide round the year employment to the poor and needy. Population in the rural areas is still growing with large young population. Millennials are literate, educated, smartphone savvy, highly conscious, aspirational thanks to establishment of Middle Schools, High Schools, +2 Colleges, and even Degree colleges, ITIs, Engineering Schools, Engineering colleges and Management Institutes and Pharmaceutical colleges in the rural and semi-urban and urban centres in close proximity to villages. In the last two decades there has been spectacular change in this field.

Oft repeated concept of demographic dividend available with India should be harnessed. Taking advantage of this dividend should be the goal and not allow it become demographic disaster. Hence harnessing the youth not only in the rural areas but also in semi-urban and urban areas adjacent or in the proximity of villages should be immediate objective.

Providing opportunities for doing business, taking up projects locally which will discourage them to leave the local ambience and not migrate, and work in the parental environment can be planned.

Full use of potential of women in the rural areas can be given emphasis. Schools and colleges have equal access to girls like boys. Many engineering graduates, Diploma holders, ITI skilled personnel are available in the rural and semi-urban areas including well qualified girls.

On farm activities and off-farm activities like providing services, establishment of micro small medium enterprises (MSME) and starting of small business can be encouraged as part of the self-reliance.

Law relating to MSME has been amended recently. Micro, small and medium has been redefined by capital cost and turn over.

MSME sector provides employment opportunity to 11 crore people .

Its contribution to GDP is 38%. Export and Foreign Exchange contribution is of the order of 48%.

On farm activities like horticulture can be source of not only augmenting income but also can be commercial endeavour. Fruits like banana, guavas, mangoes, coconut, pomegranates etc. can be encouraged among the farmers and also young members of the farming community. Floriculture has export potential with increasing demand on roses, chrysanthemum in the European market and also in the Indian metros. Domestic flights and International flights will give necessary connectivity.

Dairy farming, poultry, piggery, bee-keeping, fishery, goat rearing and sheep rearing can be taken up on a commercial scale.

Cold storage, freezing plants, chilling plants and pasteurisation plants can be established in the rural areas which will supplement other allied activities of agriculture.

In the past a number of rice mills, sugar mills and flour mills had come in the rural areas. Scope also exists even now in such enterprises. Modern bakeries can be set up as the communication to cities and towns have vastly improved. Sugarcane is grown widely. Jaggery production has been there since long time close to sugarcane area. Many products out of jaggery can be produced for urban consumption. Sugar industry and its biproducts have not been fully explored. Investment on sugar industry is highly capital intensive. They had been established in cooperative sector in addition to private sector. Ventures have been highly successful in many places. There exists immense downstream potentialities of sugar industries like distillery, carbon dioxide plant etc. Surplus bagasse can be utilized for manufacture of paper. In the past they were being used as fire wood in the rural areas. Now with easy rural supply of LPG cylinders people have found easy alternative to firewood.

Rural tourism, budget hotels, restaurants, travel agencies promotion of domestic tourism, religious tourism, cyber cafes in semi urban areas, retailing and wholesaling, trading in agricultural commodities, consultancy and industrial craft in the rural set-up taking advantage of connectivity through internet .

Food processing units can be set up with value addition to chicken, meat products, milk products, fruits juices. Entrepreneurs like engineers and educated young men and women should identify what projects, what business can be started in addition to what has been stated earlier.

There are many distinct advantages in promotion of enterprises in the rural set-up. Rural people support local entrepreneurship, low establishment cost compared to urban areas.

Availability of labour both skilled and semi-skilled, less promotional cost, local market with huge population are some distinct additional advantages. After reverse migration MNREGA could not attract skilled migrant workers after some time. If opportunity exists they will prefer to stay in their own villages.

The government has some role important to play like training facilities, skill development locally where not available, creating awareness among the rural areas, promoting self-employment by encouraging engineering graduates, diploma engineers and technicians from ITI and hand holding by Government agencies to support rural entrepreneurs. Government subsidy should be available. Internet penetration would assist entrepreneurs in rural areas. Fibre optics expansion will go a long way in this direction.

Banks are located in semi-urban area. PSBs, Cooperative Banks, Non-Banking Financial Institutions must be strengthened. Bank expansion to rural areas, strengthening of credit cooperative institutions, revival of non-banking financial institutions and Micro-financing institutions should be encouraged.

Proactive role of NABARD, SIDBI, MUDRA must be recognized by the government. The World Bank credit to India for small enterprises should be funnelled through these agencies. Revival of SFCs, SIICs and Micro-financing institutions must receive top most attention.

Project must be viable and bankable. Technical appraisal, financial appraisal, and managerial appraisal must be preceded by sanction and disbursement. Monitoring of disbursement and execution of projects and during execution and operation of business are must to avoid non-performing assets in future.

All these measures will help in self-reliant economy what is being encouraged through ATMANIRBHAR BHARAT. USA and China both looking inward and focussing on the domestic market after pandemic. Also most of the Asian economies according to the Economist is going towards in that direction.

Optimism, positive attitude, risk taking ability, discipline, persistence, hard work, integrity, innovative approach and foresight would be the priority. 



*The author is a former bureaucrat and held important positions in aviation and power regulatory body. He can be  reached through e-mail at [email protected]


DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of  Sambad English.


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