ABI(Agribusiness Incubators) transforming the Indian Agritech Sector for a Self-Reliant India
Holding nearly two decades of experience in innovation, incubation, startup mentoring, corporates and life sciences research, Dr. Manisha is deeply into the innovation and incubation management space.
A combined experience of nearly 20 years in Innovation, Incubation, Startup mentoring, Corporates and Life Sciences Research. She has a rich experience of working on TBI sustainability including project funding for incubators as also seed fund support to startups. She is nominated to the Expert Advisory Committee of [i-STED] Program of Ministry of Science & Technology, Govt of India. She was awarded the prestigious British Chevening Fellowship in Science, Research and Innovation [CRISP] at the University of Oxford during 2019.
India’s economy is principally dominated by Agricultural with more than 60% population dependent on agriculture. Agriculture and allied sectors in India employ about 50% of India’s workforce. Thus, Agri-preneurs play a very vital and important role in the Agricultural value chain. During this last three -four years India’s agritech sector predominately digitised by the smart phone availability in rural part of India. Through this Agri technology, Farmers are now directly connected with the end customers. In the last 3-4 years, there has been a lot of interest in agritech, from corporates, private equity and other investors.
The mission of self-reliance that India has set out on aims to build and transform India into a land of entrepreneurs. This can only be truly achieved if our entrepreneurs play a pivotal role, as the attainment of the lofty aim of self-reliance is highly dependent on their industriousness and ingenuity. To put it simply, they need to embark on a journey from “making in Bharat” to reaching levels of quality that can ensure an Atmanirbhar Bharat.
Agribusiness is a challenging field with considerable risks and varying returns, and the average gestation period is very high. The difficulty in accessing credit for agribusiness ventures in the initial stages, getting government clearances, regulatory issues, etc., can be major hurdles for a newcomer. This is further aggravated by poor management skills, lack of access to raw materials and inadequate scientific knowledge. Access to modern technologies is also lacking, primarily due to the split between extension agencies and the farming community.
Despite these issues, the agriculture sector start-up community has seen a lot of traction, and India is home to over 500 Agri-tech initiatives. The growth is exponential to the tune of over 25% YOY. This increase in Agri start-ups in India requires a robust support system and agribusiness incubators are playing this crucial role. There are more than 30 Agribusiness focused Incubators in India and several other agricultural university-run TBIs that cater to agribusinesses.
The rates of success multiply when the start-ups get the opportunity to be incubated in a Technology Business Incubator. Technology incubators are fundamental in supporting innovation, raising capital, pitch refinement, and obtaining statutory Government approvals. Market linkages, initial customer development, networks are an essential part of any agribusiness becoming sustainable and scalable. Technology incubators provide a huge network facility for early-stage ventures. Technology and knowledge-driven start-ups often find Technology incubators integral to their dissemination of product technologies and ideation. The input in the technology development and technology duediligence ensures the survival and stability of these ventures. Incubators are also giving mentorship facilities to the incubated start-ups. A feasible product development ecosystem from the very beginning under the able guidance of the mentors can be the difference between failure and success. The incubator is thus committed to nurturing the start-up for 2-3 years. The incubator is of immense help in facilitating the transfer of technology and knowledge and helps to develop the initial B2B contracts that can start the journey towards success. The in-depth knowledge and experience that the mentors bring into the start-up ecosystem are invaluable. These seasoned veterans have a 360-degree view of how the market operates, a secure network, and an understanding of the common mistakes that agri-preneurs should avoid. The technology-based incubator can offer crucial support in the legal, financial planning, intellectual and property rights through its expertise or via its network support. The right Technology incubators can help stress test the go-to-market strategies and gain access to high-value customers. The Business planning and training assistance provided are of immense value in the initial phase when the start-up is struggling to find its feet in the open market.
With the pandemic restrictions limiting access to support services for entrepreneurs and business owners, it is essential that business incubators, incubation hubs, innovation labs etc. work together with their entrepreneurship communities to develop innovative products and services.
Entrepreneurship communities provided by business incubators hold great appeal for many because of the networking opportunities and the peer-to-peer engagements which are great for collaborating, developing innovative ideas or simply finding motivation through the hard and sometimes lonely journey of entrepreneurship.
The COVID-19 pandemic has posed severe obstacles for businesses and societies around the world. But with the positive spirit of business incubators, and a range of entrepreneurship support organisations, the entrepreneurs have indeed risen to the challenge.