India is striving to become a $5-trillion economy. Its GDP growth for the current fiscal is forecast to be among the fastest in the world. Our responsibility is to ensure this economic transformation impacts a significant section of our population.
The seasonality of the agrarian economy and the perceived hardships in the agricultural field have historically forced migrations from rural to urban centres. Constraints in institutional design and delivery mechanisms largely contribute to the absence of sustainable rural financial markets and institutions. This leaves over 100 million farmers exposed to informal channels and exorbitant interest rates to meet their credit needs each cropping season.
A silver lining
The increased penetration of agritech has dramatically transformed the agriculture value chain in India. Scientific innovations and technology enablement have introduced new-age farming techniques and services for farmers, lenders, merchants, and corporate farm produce buyers, among other stakeholders.
Agritech players have changed the perception of the agriculture sector, piquing the interest of employees, entrepreneurs, and investors alike. With this, we are seeing a social cohesion of the three Es of employment, economic growth, and empowerment in the hinterlands.
With numerous technologies leveraged by agtech players to drive efficiencies, there is a surge in demand for talent that understands technology and uses resources to benefit those with a limited understanding of these new trends. It also offers an opportunity for those interested in developing cutting-edge innovations, including careers new-age digital technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learing (ML), analytics, cloud computing, cyber security, internet of things (IoT), and blockchain, among others.
Moreover, agritech players offering integrated services to farmers and farmer producer organisations (FPOs) at farm gate require an on-ground workforce, leading to direct livelihood opportunities in remote areas. Additionally, with the integrated agritech players offering tech-led warehouse services, digital lending services and marketplace platforms, the on-ground talent gains exposure to multiple domains for a fast-track career progression.
New horizons for millennials
Multiple research reports indicate that millennials aspire to work for a higher social cause and positively impact society. The agritech sector is in sync with such millennial expectations. The transformations enabled by it fuel unprecedented socio-economic benefits for the rural heartland. Moreover, it allows millennials who so wish to engage their talent in rural areas, away from busy city life.
We are looking at a synergy of design, product, and human interface layered with technology to create opportunities and accelerate the digitisation of the agri sector. The spectrum of job opportunities agritech firms offer spans marketing, finance, technology, functional consultancy, channel management, and HR.
Women in agriculture contribute to about 15 per cent of the national economy. Yet, they remain outside the power dynamics with no access to land, loans, or machinery and saddled with the added responsibilities of managing home, family, and children. The socio-economic impact of strengthening the role of women in agriculture can be multi-dimensional, and start-ups in agtech are facilitating this transition from labour to leadership. They are partnering the women to equip them technologically and financially, to drive a gender-diverse leadership agenda and accelerate a rise in income.
Challenges and the way forward
In recent days, startups have been facing business challenges and layoffs, often due to a cash burn financial model. Therefore, agritech must build a viable business model t built on sound economics.
This ensures growth that is mindful, inclusive, and sustainable, thereby ensuring job security.
The rising influence of technology in the agriculture ecosystem is opening up greener and newer pastures for the country’s youth. The onus is on the stakeholders, including academia, to adequately equip the young aspiring professionals for future opportunities and challenges alike.
(The writer is Executive Director and Co-founder, Arya.ag)
July 20, 2022