Rural Startups Seek Improved Supply Chain, Better Infra, Easier Access To Funds

The National Deep Tech Startup Policy (NDTSP) will be another aspect to watch out for, entrepreneurs said
Startups
Startups

Rural startups are making a strong pitch for new programmes to foster research and innovation, as the grassroots-level entrepreneurs seek support for streamlined supply chains, subsidies, improved infrastructure, and easy access to finance.

As the Budget and the Lok Sabha elections draw closer, startups working in various sectors, especially in smaller towns and villages, said they expect the government to look at various teething issues, even as their "overall performance has improved owing to various policy changes in the past couple of years".

"India's food processing industry faces a number of difficulties such as outdated equipment, ineffective supply chains, poor infrastructure, and restricted finance availability. We expect the government to help us connect with global supply chains so that we can export our products to international markets," Pardeep Kumar Yadav, Founder of Krini Spices, told PTI.

Krini Spices, which was founded in March 2017, has 22 direct and over 100 indirect employees, and posted Rs 4.19 crore revenue in 2022-23.

"We have high expectations from the Agriculture Accelerator Fund (AAF) to support young entrepreneurs in rural areas who are starting agri-based startups. We hope that the finance minister allocates additional funding in the upcoming Budget," he said.

Various startups in their Budget wishlist sought easing of export mechanisms. The government will present a vote on account in Parliament next month and the full Budget will be presented by the new government after the general polls.

Arun Awatade, Founder of Pune-based Iris Polymers, which manufactures agricultural films and industrial packaging films, said the government can help the segment in connecting with international supply and sales chains so that importing raw materials and exporting finished products become easier.

"According to a research forecast, the global market for mulching materials was estimated to be worth USD 3.82 billion in 2022 and is projected to rise at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 7.6 per cent to USD 7.96 billion by 2032.

"We see huge export potential here. If the government eases the export mechanism, India can become a huge manufacturing hub for the mulching film market," Awatade said.

His firm, which employs 53 people directly and over 200 indirectly, posted Rs 34 crore revenue in FY2022-23.

Besides increasing profitability, certain sectors need more government subsidies to not just improve their overall health but also to ensure that a part of the profit is passed on to farmers, Yogesh Gawande, Founder of Aurangabad-based Niyo Farmtech, said.

Established in 2017, Niyo Farmtech, which manufactures a diverse range of agriculture spray pumps, directly and indirectly employs about 100 workers, and posted revenue of over Rs 1.12 crore in FY23.

"We are a startup, and are here to compete with big national and multinational companies in the domain. If the government gives subsidies to my product, I will lower my profit and pass it on to farmers," Gawande said.

Niyo Farmtech has supplied spray pumps to 12,000 farmers in 14 states across the country, he said, adding that the biggest challenge it is facing is getting connected to global supply and sales chains.

Lakshmi Venkataraman Venkatesan, Founding and Managing Trustee of Bharatiya Yuva Shakti Trust (BYST) said the government has been promoting modernisation of agricultural systems by incorporating innovative solutions created by agri-entrepreneurs, by providing financial support and nurturing their incubation.

"Under the AAF, financial support is provided to entrepreneurs in the field of agriculture and allied sectors to set up their startups. A financial support of Rs 5 lakh is provided at the idea/pre-seed stage and Rs 25 lakh at the seed stage. The amount of allocation to each startup may be sufficient, but there are millions of startups working in rural areas that have the potential to scale up and even become unicorns," she said.

BYST has been working for over three decades to mentor underprivileged entrepreneurs from rural as well as urban areas of the country.

The entity claimed that it has counselled and assisted about 1 million youth and helped them create 48,000 enterprises. These enterprises have generated over Rs 6,000 crore and employ over 3,50,000 workers directly and indirectly, it added.

The National Deep Tech Startup Policy (NDTSP) will be another aspect to watch out for, entrepreneurs said.

"The Centre announced a ground-breaking NDTSP to direct innovation, and spur economic growth. We need more innovation and research in how these can benefit startups, particularly those working in the agri segment," Gawande said.

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