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Making a money smart generation: What are our schools doing? | Moneycontrol, 03 jul 2019
Budget 2019: Healthcare startup wishlist for FinMin | Deccan Herald, 03 jul 2019
Reviving banking will be key to sustainable growth | Livemint, 03 jul 2019
Education sector's expectations from Budget 2019 | The Times of India, 02 jul 2019
As India extends preschool education to all, incorporate gender sensitivity from the start | Brookings, 02 jul 2019
India's crumbling public healthcare system is in dire-need of surgery, specialists | Times Now, 02 jul 2019
What Is Wrong With India's GDP Numbers? | The Diplomat, 02 jul 2019
Innovation to be Focal point for Technology from Budget 2019 | Entrepreneur, 02 jul 2019
Water, life, and climate change in South Asia | Harvard Gazette, 02 jul 2019
Miles to go: Self-care medical interventions | The Hindu, 01 jul 2019
Agriculture & Rural Development
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 07 apr 2019
Biotechnology is expected to be the next big thing for the Indian economy, just like the IT industry has been, explains Amit Kapoor, President & CEO of India Council on Competitiveness and Honorary Chairman at Institute for Competitiveness. According to him, '...biotechnology industry seemed poised to take over the mantle. In the span of a decade beginning in 2007, the industry has grown exponentially in size from about US$ 2 billion to over US$ 11 billion in terms of revenue. By 2025, it is targeted to touch US$ 100 billion.' In the past, both Green Revolution (agricultural transformation) and White Revolution (dairy sector transformation) became successful because of the contributions from biotechnology. At present India's rising competitiveness in pharmaceuticals is also the result of biotechnological advancements and research. Moreover, energy needs of rural areas are also met by biomass fuel, produced through application of biotechnology. Mr. Kapoor explains evolution of biotechnology in India, 'As early as 1986, Rajiv Gandhi, recognising the potential of biotechnology in the country's development, set up the Department of Biotechnology...Department of Biotechnology has set up 17 Centres of Excellence at higher education institutions across the country and has supported the establishment of eight biotechnology parks across different cities...Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) in 2012, which has successfully supported 316 start-ups in its six years of existence...As of 2016, India had over a thousand biotechnology start-ups.' According to Mr. Kapoor, the sector faces many challenges and they need to be addressed effectively and promptly - (1) India's research and development expenditure is quite low at 0.67% of GDP, not only compared to mature biotechnology economies such as Japan and the US (around 3%) but also in comparison to emerging economies like China (around 2%). (2) Specific to the biotech pharmaceutical sector, there are a few India-specific challenges with the country's IP regime. There are two main areas of contention for the industry in India's approach to intellectual property. The first issue lies in Section 3(d) of the Patents (Amendment) Act, 2005, which sets a higher standard for patentability than mandated by TRIPS. The industry argues that India's stricter standards for patents discourages innovation and dampens foreign investment. The second issue is that of compulsory licensing, which gives the government power to suspend a patent in times of health emergencies. Although India has used this option only once, the industry feels that such regulations keep investors clear of Indian markets. (3) Another challenge lies in the risk involved in the Valley of Death, that is, the risk of failure in the transition of innovative products and services from discovery to marketisation. Most of the early research funding, often provided by universities or the government, runs out before the marketisation phase, the funding for which is mostly provided by venture capitalists. It becomes difficult to attract further capital between these two stages because a developing technology may seem promising, but it is often too early to validate its commercial potential. This gap has a huge impact in commercialisation of innovative ideas. Read on...
The Economic Times:
Why biotechnology can be Indian economy's next success story
Author: Amit Kapoor
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 08 jan 2019
According to the 'Global Highly-Cited Researchers 2018 List' by Clarivate Analytics, India has only 10 researchers among the world's 4000 most influential researchers. Even though India has many globally renowned institutions, but it lacks breakthrough research output. Top three countries in the list are - US (2639), UK (546), China (482). Prof. CNR Rao, world renowned chemist from Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Sciences and named in the list, says, 'About 15 years ago, China and India were at the same level, but China today contributes to 15-16% of the science output in the world, while we currently contribute only 4%.' Prof. Dinesh Mohan, environmental science academic at JNU and included in the list, says, 'Areas such as climate change, water and energy are areas where research is more relevant nowadays. Where you publish your work is also important for impact.' Dr. Avnish Agarwal, also named in the list, says, 'We need to improve our research ecosystem...There is a lack of focus on quality research in Indian academia. If teachers do not do high-quality research, they will not be updated with new developments.' Others in the list are - Dr. Rajeev Varshney (Agriculture researcher at International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics-ICRISAT); Dr. Ashok Pandey (Researcher at the Indian Institute of Toxicology Research); Dr. Alok Mittal and Dr. Jyoti Mittal (Researchers in environmental science, water treatment, green chemistry and chemical kinetics at the Maulana Azad National Institute of Technology); Dr. Rajnish Kumar (Researcher and professor at IIT Madras's Department of Chemical Engineering); Dr. Sanjeeb Sahoo (Researcher in nanotechnology at the Institute of Life Sciences); Dr. Sakthivel Rathinaswamy (Professor and researcher in Applied and Computational Mathematics at Bharathiar University). Read on...
ONLY 10 AMONG THE WORLD'S TOP 4000 INFLUENTIAL RESEARCHERS ARE INDIAN: REPORT
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 24 nov 2018
There are many sides to India's agriculture story. But, what we often hear is the sad one of farmer poverty and suicides. Although many challenges remain including that of humanitarian crises of farmer suicides, but Indian agriculture is going through many positive transformations. According to recent data, tractors sales ended the last fiscal year with a growth of 22% due to good monsoon and strong rural demand. Improvements in road connectivity has boosted tractor sales even in the remote parts of Jharkhand, Telangana, Haryana and other states. The Bloomberg Indian rural economy indices provide a steady upward movement in rural output growth. Two-wheeler sales, a positive indicator of rural growth, have also picked up in recent months. Moreover, there are other visible innovative aspects of Indian agriculture that are good news. India is one of the biggest agrarian economies and even though it lacks in productivity but with 30% of world's organic farmers it is the largest organic farming country. People like Subhash Palekar, who preaches 'zero budget spiritual farming', or farming using only natural and low-cost fertilisers and techniques, are bringing the much needed change. His work has had an impact on 400000 farmers in Maharashtra and adjoining states. Top Indian restaurants and chefs now promote black rice and brown rice grown in India. Customers are also willing to pay a premium for organic produce, thus encouraging cropping up of startups and entrepreneurial ventures in organic farming space. Sikkim has recetly won a prestigious United Nations award for its status as an organic food-only destination. There are also innovations happening in dairy sector with startups putting the certain regions into limelight. India remains as one of the top milk producing countries in the world. Indian agri-tech startups have grown to such an extent that they now have their own exlusive expo that promotes diverse innovations like new pumping techniques, soil testing and management systems, and raw food supply chain breakthroughs. Read on...
How to join the dots of growth in Indian agriculture
Author: Hindol Sengupta
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 26 aug 2018
Education and awareness about protecting environment at the early stage of student learning can play a big role to save it. Bhavisha Buddhadeo, a social activist and an expert in organic farming and kitchten gardening based in Gurgaon (India), is doing just that as a mission to promote ecological wellbeing and safeguard environment. She conducts learning workshops and lectures on importance of sustainability and how to better care for the environment. Ms. Buddhadeo says, 'I have engaged children and women in plantation drives, kitchen garden activities and (a) solar energy initiative to educate them regarding the utmost importance of conservation of nature. Schools are doing environmental education and (the) best have made sustainability a school-wide, hands-on project, rather than just another topic for children to write reports on. My programs offer opportunities for experiential learning outside of the classroom, (and) enable students to make connections and apply their learning in the real world.' In her career spanning about 20 years she has taught 100000 students from across many states of India. Read on...
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 26 aug 2018
According to meteorologists, the recent flooding in southwestern state of Kerala in India has occured due to two-and-a-half times the normal monsoon rains. Climate scientists caution that if the global warming continues unabated more unusual weather events will happen. Roxy Mathew Koll, a climate scientist at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, says, 'It is difficult to attribute any single extreme weather event - such as the Kerala flooding - to climate change. At the same time, our recent research shows a three-fold increase in widespread extreme rains during 1950-2017, leading to large-scale flooding.' According to the study published in Nature last year that Mr. Koll co-authored, flooding caused by heavy monsoons rainfall claimed 69000 lives and left 17 million people without homes over the same period across India. Kira Vinke, a scientist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (Germany), says, 'These floods that we are seeing in Kerala right now are basically in line with climate projections. If we continue with current levels of emissions - which is not unlikely - we will have unmanageable risks.' Mr. Koll explains the weather patterns behind the excessive rains, 'Rapid warming in the Arabian Sea and nearby landmass causes monsoon winds to fluctuate and intensify for short spans of three-to-four days. During those periods, moisture from the Arabian Sea is dumped inland.' Elena Surovyatkina, a professor at the Russian Academy of Sciences and monsoon expert, says, 'Over the last decade, due to climate change, the overheating of landmass leads to the intensification of monsoon rainfalls in central and southern India.' According to a World Bank report titled 'South Asia's Hotspots', 'On current trends, India's average annual temperatures are set to rise 1.5 degree Celsius to 3 degree Celsius compared to that benchmark by mid-century. If no corrective measures are taken, changing rainfall patterns and rising temperatures will cost India 2.8% of its GDP and will drag down living standards of half its population by 2050.' Ms. Vinke says, 'What we will see with climate change in India is that the wet season is going to be wetter and the dry season drier. Already we are observing that the monsoon is becoming harder to predict with traditional methods.' A recent research predicted, 'If man-made carbon emissions continue unabated, some regions in northeast India could literally become unlivable by the end of the century due to a deadly combination of heat and humidity during heatwaves.' Read on...
The Economic Times:
India's devastating rains match climate change forecasts
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 28 jul 2018
India has to give special emphasis to agriculture to ensure food security for its large population. Recent report, 'Agricultural Policies in India' (Authors: Ashoka Gulati, Infosys chair professor for agriculture at ICRIER; Carmen Cahill, Deputy Director for trade and agriculture at OECD), jointly developed by Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER), provides outcomes of the research conducted for over two years to map and measure the nature of agricultural policies in India and how they have impacted producers and consumers. The report includes key policy indicators like the producer support estimates (PSEs) and consumer support estimates (CSEs). According to the authors of the report, 'The methodology adopted is a standard one that OECD has applied to measure PSEs and CSEs for 51 countries over the last 30 years. In the case of PSEs, it basically captures the impact of various policies on two components: (a) the output prices that producers receive, benchmarked against global prices of comparable products; and (b) the various input subsidies that farmers receive through budgetary allocations by the Centre and states. The two are combined to see if farmers receive positive support (PSE), or negative, as a percentage of gross farm receipts. A positive PSE (%) means that policies have helped producers receive higher revenues than would have been the case otherwise, and a negative PSE (%) implies lower revenues for farmers (a sort of implicit tax) due to the set of policies adopted.' The report found India's PSE, on average, during 2014-15 to 2016-17 was -6% of farm receipts. Contrary to this most other countries have positive PSEs. Overall, PSE (%) was negative to the tune of 14%, on average, over the entire period from 2000-01 to 2016-17, indicating that, despite positive input subsidies, farmers in India received 14% less revenue due to restrictive trade and marketing policies. To incentivise farmers to raise productivity, build an efficient and sustainable agriculture that augments farmers' incomes and foster rural growth and jobs all along the value chain, authors suggest - (1) Change policies to 'get the markets right' by reforming domestic marketing regulations (ECA and APMC), promoting a competitive national market and upgrading marketing infrastructure. Also review restrictive export policies for agri-products. (2) The report recongnizes concerns of the policymakers to protect consumers from price rise. But, it argues for switching to an income policy approach through a direct benefit transfer (DBT) targeted to the vulnerable sections of the population. (3) Indian agriculture and farmers would be much better off if input subsidies are contained and gradually reduced, and the equivalent savings are channelled simultaneously towards higher investments in agri-R&D, extension, building rural infrastructure for better markets and agri-value chains, as also on better water management to deal with climate change. (4) A greater degree of coordination is required between the Centre and the States, and also across various ministries, for a more holistic approach towards reforming agriculture. Read on...
From plate to plough: India must get its agri-markets right
Authors: Ashoka Gulati, Carmel Cahill
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 28 aug 2017
Industry experts are bullish on India's agriculture and suggest that it has potential to double farmer's income and grow exports to US$ 100 billion by 2022. Rajju Shroff, President of Crop Care Federation of India (CCFI) and MD of United Phosphorus Ltd, says, 'Globally, exports in agricultural products is over US$ 1500 billion annually as per the latest data from WTO and India's share is less than US$ 35 billion at present.' According to the latest report by Centre for Environment and Agriculture (Centegro) and Tata Strategic Management Group, released by Union Minister Nitin Gadkari, 'Agriculture's contribution to India's economy extends beyond the rural economy and encompasses many activities in manufacturing and services sector. Export surplus from the country's agricultural trade is higher than the corresponding figure achieved by the manufacturing sector.' Report urges the government to launch 'Grow In India' campaign to achieve gains in agri-exports with a single authority to monitor India's international agricultural trade. Report suggests that organic farming is not sustainable because of low yield and need for huge amount of unavailable manure. Mr. Shroff explains the dynamics of India's agricultural growth, 'This is all due to small and marginal farmers who deploy family labour and engage in intensive multi cropping all year round. They also manage livestock & poultry efficiently using agriculture waste as animal feed and to produce manure.' Read on...
The Economic Times:
Agriculture exports may grow to $100 billion by 2022 - Experts
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 26 aug 2017
Agriculture is a critical component of the economy and farmers are the nation's backbone. India's 2017 food-grains production is around 273.83 million metric tonne. World Bank predicts Indian food-grain production to reach 280.6 million metric tonne by the year 2020-21. Following are key areas that India's agriculture should pursue for growth and development - (1) Demand Strength: Large population is key driver of agrarian demand growth; Rise in urban and rural income; Increase export demand particularly from Middle-East and Central Asia. (2) Attractive Opportunities: Hybrid seeds; Chemical Fertilizers; Organic Fertilizers. (3) Competitive Advantages: High proportion of over 157 million hectares of agrarian land; Leads in production of jute, pulses, milk, buffalo meat export; Second largest producer of wheat and paddy. (4) Government Policies: Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana has led to development of various organic clusters with very low chemical dependency; Pradhan Mantri Gram Sinchai Yojana has also played a major role to irrigate the agrarian lands; Step towards unified agriculture market; 100% FDI under automatic route for development of seeds; Reduction in wheat import duty from 10% to almost zero and capping import limits to two lakh tonnes by importers in pulses. (5) Development Of Rabi And Kharif Seasons: Kharif season (Summer - April to September) mainly for paddy and Rabi season (Winter - October to March) for wheat production, have registered good growth. In March 2017, almost 64.5 million hectares of agricultural land were sown, out of which over 19 million hectares land was insured during Rabi season. More than 16.4 million farmers were benefitted by the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojna. Read on...
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 04 jan 2017
Marc Faber, editor and publisher of 'The Gloom, Boom & Doom Report', while speaking on Indian economy, says, 'It does not matter whether India grows at 5% per annum or 7% per annum but if you look at the next 10 years or so, you could easily expect an economy that on an average grows anywhere between 4% and 7% per annum. That is a very high growth rate compared to practically no growth expected from the US or in Europe.' On sectors that would be attractive for investments, he comments, 'In 2017, some commodity related stocks including oil and gas will be reasonably attractive. What I have noticed to be the most attractive sectors are plantation companies, agricultural companies and fertiliser companies. They have significant potential on the upside because agricultural commodity prices have been very weak since 2011. These agricultural commodity prices will pace them out and start to increase. The agricultural sector, fertilisers are relatively attractive.' Read on...
The Economic Times:
Expect India to grow between 4%-7% in next 10 years: Marc Faber
Author: Tanvir Gill
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 20 may 2016
India's healthcare is an opportunity that has room for growth for all - public or private, for-profit or non-profit, foreign or domestic entities. According to the latest CII-KPMG report, Indian healthcare sector is estimated to reach US$ 160 billion in 2017, accounting for about 4.2% of GDP. It is further expected to grow to US$ 280 billion by 2020. India currently spends only 1.05% of GDP on public health. Over the years, governments have tried to develop policies and have taken steps to provide better healthcare for its citizens. But India's large size, huge population (1.25 billion) and ineffective implementation at various levels, has created lop sided infrastructure and uneven development in healthcare. While bigger towns and cities have developed state of the art healthcare facilities, the rural part has lagged behind on multiple counts. Inspite of all the challenges, India is taking a stride into the next phase of healthcare, riding on technological advances, new financial models and corporatization of hospitals. Timely provision of healthcare assistance is the key to save cost and save lives. Multipronged strategy is the need of the hour. Technology, skilled and trained medical professionals, substantial investment and effective execution of best practices will help India provide what the today's citizens expect from the growing economy. Read on...
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 27 feb 2016
Government policies and budgetary allocations play an important role in building a business-friendly environment. Since startups are essential for growth of economic activity, they need to be nurtured during their early stages of development. Government has to provide facilitating ecosystem for entrepreneurial ventures and give special consideration in annual budgets. Indian government's campaigns like 'Make in India', 'Startup India', 'Digital India' and 'Skill India', are driven to stimulate economic activity and support local business development along with attracting global investments. To fulfil these ideas and particularly 'Startup India', Indian government's Budget'2016 should have specific allocations for startups. Following is the list of 19 entrepreneurs and their expectations from the budget - (1) K. Balakrishnan, MD & CEO, Servion Global Solutions: Provide necessary incentives, legal/tax framework and infrastructure support to IT and Electronics industry; Increase investments in broadband connectivity; Improved IT infrastructure and e-governance. (2) Saurabh Arora, Founder & CEO, Lybrate: Increase the tax holiday period from 3 years to at least 5 years; Profitable startups be charged less corporate tax; Benefit of tax rebate on healthcare expense should be for entire tax payer class and not just for salaried class. (3) Aloke Bajpai, CEO & Co-founder, ixigo: Tourism-friendly policies; Focus more on infrastructure and develop airports and provide better connectivity to smaller towns; Better definition for online aggregators and their taxation norms; Clearly define online marketplace. (4) Sobhan Babu, Professor at IIT Hyderabad and founder of Plianto Technologies: Support for startups in the tender bidding process with easy norms. (5) Ankur Bhatia, Executive Director of Bird Group and Member of CII National Committee on Civil Aviation: Draft aviation policy and development of airports in tier-I and tier-II cities is a positive step; Address challenges related to complex policies, aggressive price cuts, multi-tiered tax system and infrastructure deterring the true potential of the Indian aviation industry; Treat aviations sector as national priority. (6) Rohan Bhargava, Co-founder, CashKaro.com: Fund-of-funds and tax benefits for startups need to be implemented effectively; Set out clear and measurable timelines with minimal bureaucratic intervention; Provide clear tax policy that will address the complications of the current tax structure faced by ecommerce sites; Present GST roadmap. (7) Manish Kumar, CEO & Co-founder, GREX Alternative Investments Pvt Ltd: Fund-of-funds should invest directly in startups; Proposed US$ 1.5 billion in FoF is not enough to make impact; Remove 'angel tax'; Relaxation on capital gain tax; Explore alternative ways for raising funds like venture debt; Promote risk investing through proper framework for investor exit. (8) Geetha Kannan, Managing Director, The Anita Borg Institute (ABI) India: Expecting 'gender mainstreaming'; Integrate gender perspective to all relevant policies and initiatives; Special allocation for women entrepreneurs; Provide women-friendly facilities and infrastructure in '100 Smart City' initiative; Focus on women-safety; Get more aggressive on women-specific policies. (9) Ankita Tandon, Chief Operating Officer, CouponDunia: Minimal government or bureaucratic intervention in channeling startup funds; Further increase existing tax exemptions for startups; Better internet connectivity in tier-I and tier-II cities; Introduce tax incentives for startup employees to encourage youths to join startups. (10) Srikanth Reddy, Founder/Chairman, Palred Technologies & LatestOne.com: Encourage participation of Indian institutional investors in startups; ESOP/Sweat Equity shares should be taxed when they are actually sold. (11) Deepit Purkayastha, Co-founder & Chief Strategy Officer, Inshorts: 'Skill India' program should work with 'Startup India'; Maket investments to impart contemporary skills and entrepenerial education; Overhaul of university incubators; Exempt tax on angel investments and ESOPs and relaxed regime for startups to go public and launch IPOs. (12) Pushpinder Singh, CEO & Co-founder, Travelkhana: Announce separate railways startup policy; Include only the transportation cost on rail ticket with additional facilities like food, blankets etc kept as optional charges; Develop a system to utilize data generated by railways everyday. (13) Sanjay Sethi, CEO & Co-founder, Shopclues: GST should become a reality; Tax incentives for startup employees; Policy support for startups going for IPO. (14) Mohit Dubey, Co-founder & CEO, Carwale: Steps toward concrete vehicular pollution policy; Incentives and rebates for hybrids and less polluting vehicular technologies; Fuel policy towards global quality standards and encourage less polluting fuels. (15) Vipin Pathak, Co-founder & CEO, Care24: Easy FDI investment norms, licensing and startup support (tax, documentation, licensing, legal). (16) Manu Agarwal, Founder & CEO, Naaptol: Provide clarity to taxation laws relatd to online marketplaces; Better infrastructure and logistic systems like larger ports and transit systems are need to facilitate imports. (17) Hitesh Doshi, CMD, Waaree Energies: Push for solar manufacturing industry through fulfilling material's requirement locally; Encourage local production through incentives and implementation of anti-dumping policies; Investments in solar energy R&D and technology innovation; Policy reforms like that of depreciation benefits. (18) Amit Mishra, Co-founder & CEO, Quifers: Streamline tax on capital deducted at source like giving first year start-ups the benefit of tax exemption at source; Decreasing service tax by a certain percentage in the first year of operation; Giving out tax benefits and incentives to early stage investors. (19) Chirag Haria, CEO of Aarogyam Energy Jewellery: Utilization of India Post Rural Network with incentives on Cash on Delivery (COD) orders in Rural India, to help increase rural spending; Income tax benefits for individuals/trust investing in Gold Monetization Scheme to bring down gold imports; Increase Excise Duty exemptions from 1.5 crore to 5 crore to encourage small scale manufacturing and prevent black marketing. Read on...
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 14 feb 2016
Make in India Week has now started in Mumbai and along with it India Design Forum (IDF) 2016 is developing strategies and advocating how a facilitating design environment and culture can be nurtured to enable growth of manufacturing. IDF is integrated into Make in India campaign's plan to demonstrate the potential of design, innovation and sustainability across India's manufacturing sector. Rajshree Pathy, founder of IDF, explains, 'Design is not merely about clothes, shoes, handbags and jewellery, as is commonly believed. Those are incidental. Design is, in fact, at the heart of the manufacturing process. It is not a 'thing', it is a way of thinking.' Satyendra Pakhale, an Amsterdam-based designer, citing Tata Nano's example says, 'It is a good example of Indian design, which combined engineering innovations with a careful consideration for the demands of the domestic market. In fact, one of India's most famous qualities - jugaad - is indicative of an innovative mindset.' According to Simran Lal, CEO of Good Earth, 'It's important that we bring rural design and India's rural design communities along on this journey.' Time is now ripe for India to upgrade to a design-driven manufacturing ecosystem, attract global investments, partner with global corporations and manufacture for the world, but without losing the focus on serving the needs of the large local market. Read on...
The Indian Express:
Make in India Week - Putting design at the heart of manufacturing
Author: Pooja Pillai
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 19 dec 2015
The PPP Knowledge Lab of the World Bank defines a PPP (Public-Private Partnerships) as, 'A long-term contract between a private party and a government entity, for providing a public asset or service, in which the private party bears significant risk and management responsibility, and remuneration is linked to performance.' Different countries are incorporating modified version of the definition in their laws depending upon their own legal and institutional framework. Siraj Chaudhry, Chairman of Cargill India, suggests a PPP framework for India's agriculture for sustainability and better rural development, in which the government provides and co-finance the back-end of the value chain, while the rest is done by the private sector and the farmers. Although India has made continued progress in food security, quadrupling its food grain production. But a lot more is desired as its crop yield still hovers between 30% to 60% of the best sustainable crop yields achievable in developed and some other developing countries. There is substantial room for increase in productivity and total output gains. Moreover India has some of the highest postharvest food losses due to poor infrastructure and unorganized retail. To overcome infrastructural and supply-chain inefficiencies, degrading of land and water, effects of climate change etc, India requires a collaborative multipronged strategy in the form of PPP to utilize technologically advance farming practices, build efficient supply chains and develop organized marketing and retailing. Mr. Chaudhry details the role of various PPP models that bring together all the stakeholders of the agricultural ecosystem for making India's agriculture as the engine of rural growth and development, to eradicate poverty, hunger and malnutrition, and in addition be a major source of food for the world - (1) Investing in smarter value chains: Develop food processing industry. Provide farm extension services. Enhance price realization. Cut out intermediaries. Improve supply chain through forward and backward linkages. (2) Improving access to credit, technology and markets: Utilize advance information technology and biotechnology. Provide farmers agricultural knowledge and guidance. Develop high-yield, pest resistant crops. Enable better management of natural resources. (3) Building farmer resilience to environmental shocks: Provide financial security to farmers. Enable them to de-risk through insurance etc. Develop integrated value chains. He cites the example of Maharashtra government's PPP for Integrated Agricultural Development (MPPIAD), that was catalyzed by World Economic Forum's New Vision for Agriculture (NVA), to develop integrated value chains. Read on...
Making India's agriculture sustainable through PPPs
Author: Siraj Chaudhry
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 08 dec 2015
United Nation's '2015 Climate Change Conference' is being held in Paris (France) where 196 countries are on the table to reach consensus on tackling climate change and contain global temperature rise and keep it below 2°C. The recent study, 'Climate Change and India: Adaptation Gap (2015) - A Preliminary Assessment', conducted by Prof. Amit Garg of IIM Ahmedabad, Prof. Vimal Mishra of IIT Gandhinagar and Dr. Hem Dholakia of Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), found that India would need over US$1 trillion from now until 2030 to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change. The study identifies India's preliminary financial, technology, and knowledge gaps in adaptation, as well as capacity building and institutional needs. The study also estimates that about 800 million people living across nearly 450 districts in India are already experiencing significant increases in annual mean temperature going above 2°C warming pathway. For the whole of India the estimated increase will be 1-1.5°C in the near term (2016-2045). The implications would be disastrous for agriculture and crop production, and the effects could be more pronounced due to estimated increase in extreme precipitation events, resulting in flooding and significant damage to infrastructure. While commenting on the importance of the findings, Mr. Ashok Lavasa (Secretary at the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change), said, 'Supporting and enhancing the sustainable development of 1.25 billion people is at the heart of India's adaptation gap filling strategy. The fruits of development should not be lost due to increasing adaptation gap in the future.' Read on...
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 30 nov 2015
India's agriculture and farming products contribute to 15% of its exports (US$ 40 billion), 17% to its GDP, and employs nearly half of its total workforce. R. Gopalakrishnan, business leader and currently non-executive director at TATA Sons Ltd., suggests that policy makers should not ignore India's agriculture sector and bring it into the main policy agenda. The sector is in a great need for a business model innovation. Government programs like 'Digital India' can connect farmers through smart phones, 'Make in India' can work to enhance exports and 'National Skills Development Mission' can upgrade skills of the 260 million farming and agricultural workforce. Experts suggest that India has the potential to double its agricultural exports and increase its farm output by lesser but better trained workers. Senior scientist and director of the Indian Institute of Pulses Research, Narendra Pratap Singh, while explaining India's pulses crisis says, 'It is not lack of research as much as policy support that is currently missing in pulses.' Mr. Gopalakrishnan recommends innovative and intelligent approach to agriculture. Collaborative programs between the center and the states can bring the next green revolution. A research paper that Mr. Gopalakrishnan co-authored with Y.S.P. Thorat (former chairman and MD of National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development), titled 'Sarthak Krishi Yojana', suggests a coherent framework to transform agriculture and is inspired by the national industrialisation experiences through five pillars - technology, risk, institutionalisation, policy and skills. Read on...
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 27 oct 2015
In the recently published World Bank report, 'Ending Extreme Poverty and Sharing Prosperity: Progress and Policies' (Authored by Marcio Cruz, James Foster, Bryce Quillin, Philip Schellekens), it is estimated that the proportion of people living in extreme poverty in the world is expected to decline from 12.8% (902 million) in 2012 to 9.4% (702.1 million) in 2015. Although India had the largest number of poors in 2012, but its poverty rate estimate of 12.4% (Modified Mixed Reference Period or MMRP method) is one of the lowest among those countries with the largest number of poor. The report also mentioned that India might have been overestimating the number of its poors depending upon the method applied to collect data - 21.9% (Uniform Reference Period or URP method) for 2011-12 and 29.5% (Mixed Reference Period or MRP method). However the recent report, 'India Rural Development Report 2013-14' (Authored by Surinder S. Jodhka, P. S. Vijay Shankar, Himanshu Kulkarni, Siddharth Patil, Sanchita Bakshi, Mekhala Krishnamurthy, Kaushal K. Vidyarthee, Amita Baviskar), prepared by IDFC Rural Development Network and endorsed by the Ministry of Rural Development (Govt. of India), estimates that nearly 7% of India's rural population is still living in 'extreme poverty', an issue of great concern for the policy makers. But a good sign is that the number of 'very poor' in rural India came down much faster in the period 2004-12 as compared to the preceding decade - 16.3% in 2004-05 to 6.84% in 2011-12. Report mentions that Chhattisgarh (15.32%) has the highest percentage of 'very poor', followed by Madhya Pradesh (15.04%), Odisha (11.46%), Bihar (10.45%) and Jharkhand (9.23%). Moreover, poverty among marginalized groups like Scheduled Tribes (45%) and Scheduled Castes (31%) in rural areas remains high in 2011-12. When occupational groups are considered for poverty estimates in rural areas, agricultural laborers (40%) have the highest poors, followed by other laborers (33%), self-employed in agriculture (22%) and self-employed in non-agriculture (18.63%). Read on...
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 06 oct 2015
Indian PM Narendra Modi's recent visit to Silicon Valley and meetings with the top executives of US technology giants, have possibilities and opportunities to build partnerships and collaborations for 'Digital India' concept. Moreover access to the attractive 1.25 billion people's market that India offers would be too hard to refuse for Silicon Valley companies. But what these companies also expect is the faster pace of economic reforms, ease of doing business and less bureaucratic hurdles and regulations. The recent exit of global commodities trader and hedge fund manager Jim Rogers from the Indian market gives a negative signal to the global investor community. India's digital upgrade holds a promise for educational and social modernization leading to advanced and skilled workforce, that are preconditions for a thriving economy along with sufficient consumption. Although India's literacy rate continues to rise since independence but it is still well short of projected world literacy of about 90% this year. A lot is still desired in educational infrastructure particularly in rural areas. Internet and latest educational technologies and platforms can help in this regard. India's internet penetration is only 20% of the population and the government's digital thrust can boost this number. Expertise from tech giants can be utilized to improve internet access. Moreover the digital strategy will also spur consumption through ecommerce. According to World Bank, at present consumption accounts for 60% of India's GDP, while Wall Street Journal mentioned that only 1% of India's population shops online. Also 80% of India's population lacks means to pay electronically for goods, says Morgan Stanley research report. The report also mentioned that India's internet market could rise to US$ 137 billion by 2020. All these statistics points towards a better scope and opportunities for businesses in a 'Digital India'. Read on...
How Silicon Valley can turn India's economy around
Author: S. Kumar
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 15 sep 2015
Architects often espouse some philosophical concepts while designing and creating their projects apart from imbibing what their clients want. Architect Mona Doctor Pingel of Studio Naqshbandi in Auroville (Tamil Nadu, India), considers building as not merely a functional structure but a space that effectively addresses the five senses. She is influenced by writer-philosopher-artist Hugo Kukelhaus who considered various aspects of modern architecture as 'inhuman'. Ms. Pingel focuses on creating healthy living and work spaces. She thoroughly studies the impact of built environment on human health before embarking on projects. According to her, 'Starting from location and climate to the materials selected, and the interiors, all add up to prevent the sick building syndrome. A building should bring into perspective all the five senses, thereby giving a three-dimensional angle to the structure. Like the sight of greenery, sound of water, feel of natural stone under the feet, the smell of trees, flowers, and fresh mud, the taste of a charming yet sensitive design, all the five senses need to be addressed by a building.' She uses natural materials in her projects like stone, terracotta blocks, bricks alongwith seamlessly blending greenery into the environment. She believes that architects have to be envoronmentally responsible in their designs and advocates practices of resource efficiency and recycling. She says, 'The scale in which cities are growing is not sustainable. Villages need revival through awareness, education and commitment brought into design.' Read on...
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 22 aug 2015
India's agriculture sector becomes important to the economy due to the workforce employed, nearly half of the total, and contribution of 17% to the GDP (Gross Domestic Product). The sector has gone through many transformations - 'Green Revolution' of 1960s, improvement in the yield of wheat with introduction of high yielding varieties and establishment of research facilities and use of better fertilizers and irrigation in the early 1970s, and subsequent transformation in the output of rice due to large-scale use of tube wells, and post-1980s saw the shift in focus towards increasing yields and production of oilseed, fruits and vegetables. During 1960s and 1970s the growth of agriculture was 3-4% while during 1980s it became 5-6%. In 1990s it reached 6-7% but during later part of 1990s and post-2000 it declined to 1-2%. Amit Kapoor and Sankalp Sharma of Institute of Competitiveness in India, explain the various aspects of Indian agriculture and provide recommendations to improve and grow the agricultural economy. According to them government should focus on areas like rural infrastructure, better access to credit and enabling value addition by farmers. They highlight four aspects of Indian agriculture - (1) Overdependence on monsoon for irrigation: There is need for better irrigation policy, utilization of rivers, rural tourism and infrastructure development. (2) Inhibition to technology adoption: Research community has to play a better role in guiding farmers and learning about their challenges and advocate technological solutions. Agricultural policy should make farmers as the focus of every policy action. Farming in India has to move beyond 'subsistence' level. (3) Lack of availability of formal agricultural credit to farmers: Requires better insurance schemes, behavioral interventions to make farmers aware of their decisions, promotion of financial planning, and making farmers feel financially secure and independent. Venture finance can be considered for agricultural producers who want to do value addition for their agricultural produce. (4) Inefficient market conditions: Although government procurement at MSP (Minimum Support Price) is beneficial to farmers but they cannot command the price that they could in a free market. Moreover inefficient storage leads to wastage of produce. Farmers should have the flexibility to sell directly to interested foreign buyers. Read on...
Here's why we need to focus on agriculture in India!
Authors: Amit Kapoor, Sankalp Sharma
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 18 may 2015
According to S. Ayyappan, Secretary of Department of Agricultural Research & Education (DARE) and Director General of Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), 'Multidisciplinary research and applications are required to improve agriculture in India.' He suggests, 'The future of India and the world lay in everyone becoming interested in the outcomes of agriculture, since it's everybody's business.' Vijay Chandru, Chairman and CEO of Strand Life Sciences, says 'Innovations are happening in genome sequencing and it might soon become personalized and a precise way of diagnosing diseases. There is need for biologists, bioinformaticians and information scientists to collaborate in this regard.' Read on...
Research needed to improve agriculture, says expert
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 19 sep 2014
According to a report from the International Panel on Climate Change, climatic factors like heatwaves, drought, and unpredictable rainfall patterns are already adversely affecting the yields of staples like wheat and maize. Moreover World Bank's Dr. Jim Yong Kim predicts that food shortages could lead to 'food wars' within the next 5 to 10 years. But jackfruit, native to India and grown extensively in South & South-East Asia, may come to the rescue and provide a solution to the depleting food supply in future. Biotechnology researcher, Shyamala Reddy, from University of Agriculture Sciences in Banglore, India says, ' It can provide so many nutrients and calories - everything. If you just eat 10 or 12 bulbs of this fruit, you don't need food for another half a day. It is rich in potassium, calcium, and iron, making it more nutritious than current starchy staples.' According to Danielle Nierenberg of Food Tank, which works on sustainable agriculture, 'It is easy to grow. It survives pests and diseases and high temperatures. It is drought-resistant. It achieves what farmers need in food production when facing a lot of challenges under climate change.' While Nyree Zerega, a researcher of plant biology at Chicago Botanic Garden, points out that, 'The down-market reputation of jackfruit is unwarranted. In addition to its high nutritional value, the fruit is very versatile. The seeds, young fruit, and mature varieties are all edible.' Read on...
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 08 apr 2014
A team of economists, Esther Duflo & Abhijeet Banerjee (both from MIT) and Arun Chandrashekhar & Matthew Jackson (both from Stanford), in their research paper 'The Diffusion of Microfinance', explain the effects of providing information first to the well connected people on the popularity of socially beneficial programs. They termed this new measure of social influence as 'diffusion centrality'. Researchers examined the spread of microfinance in India through word of mouth and found that when socially well connected individuals were the first to know and gain access to these programs it increased the participation by 11%. The surveys for the study were mainly conducted in the select villages of the state of Karnataka in India. The study also found that participants in the microfinance programs are more effective in dissipating information to others - 7 times more than those who know about the programs but not participating. The research can be utilized by microfinance institutions and nonprofit poverty alleviation groups to evaluate the most effective methods to introduce and implement such programs in local settings. Read on...
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 07 apr 2014
Majority of India's population lives in rural areas and according to estimates its rural markets are growing faster than the urban markets. Although companies are trying to enhance their customer base by reaching the rural consumers but there are challenges particularly in application of customer retention strategies that require consistent and better after-sales services. This is mainly due to small number of consumers that are spread over a vast area and inability to afford to build dedicated after-sales service network. But according to Accenture research this is not discouraging companies to make focused and sustained efforts to effectively and efficiently reach this market through - Devising low-cost methods for after-sales support; Anchoring customer relationships on trust; Investing in community development. Read on...
Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 27 nov 2013
With about 70% of India's population residing in rural areas, a converged approach is needed with participation from government, private sector, social sector and entrepreneurs, to fulfil the required rural development agenda. According to Mr. Parmesh Shah, Lead Rural Development Specialist of World Bank, the Last Mile Service delivery is a US$ 19 billion opportunity in India and entrepreneurs have to play a crucial role to translate it for the welfare and benefit of the rural population. He mentions service delivery deficiencies in agriculture, storage of agri-produce and health. He suggests focus on four key areas - entrepreneurship, service delivery, value chain and small scale manufacturing. Read on...
India Needs Entrepreneur Managed Service Delivery Models for Rural Areas: Shah
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