Budget 2019 – Capacity building for the growth of rural economy: Insights from Rhino Machines and associated partner newtork

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As a group of industrialists, educationists, innovators and entrepreneurs, Rhino Machines and its associates have been connected across diverse industry and service segments. The deeper we go into the learning, the stronger becomes the belief that our economy lies in the villages. With nearly 67% of our population having their roots in the rural belt, and with the rising aspirations of the rural ecosystem to become part of the growth story of our country, it is imperative that we need to step back and start looking at the relevance of Budget 2019.

Why Capacity Building for Rural Economy is so relevant and how?

The context and backdrop:  Rhino Machines and its associates/founders have been working across the length and breadth of India, and have expanded across different sectors. A Top 6 Innovator in UNIDO-MSME GCIP (Global Cleantech Innovation Program) in 2015 and 2016, a mentor in GCIP 2017 and  Global Action on Poverty GAP 2019,  a promoter of upcycling venture Meemansa, Rhino Machines and their associates have gained rich insights in understanding the workforce challenges in rural India and handling migration. This is in addition to Rhino Machines’ commitment to bring world class vocational education and training through ACE Foundation and successfully adapting Swiss dual-track job-oriented training.

Based on the multi-sector experience through diverse ventures, we believe in the following two key concepts for capacity building in rural sector:

  • Self-Sustained economy – A village produces agricultural products, dairy products and also does the value addition, creates job and entrepreneurship opportunities within the rural ecosystem, the economy thrives and the trade deficit reduces. The budget focus on livelihood business incubators and developing 75,000 skilled entrepreneurs in the agro-rural industries is a step towards the same
  • Circular economy (consumption) – This involves promoting the reuse and recycling of wastes and finding solutions for 100% usage and reuse of the resources such as agricultural waste, water, cattle dung, plastic, cloth and so on

With a majority of the consumers lying in the rural belt, with several migrating to metros and cities in search of livelihood and opportunities, the relevance of building capacity in the villages using modern communication and virtual technologies to bridge the gap becomes so much relevant and the need of the hour.

Circular economy, Swarajya (economic self-reliance) – Mahatma Gandhi’s vision and Rural Economy and Financial Inclusion seem to be the fulcrum of Budget 2019. This can be executed by linking education with entrepreneurship, promoting innovation in rural ecosystem, enabling sustainable livelihoods, and creating waste from wealth.

How can this be done through rural entrepreneurship – an example

Vocational Education + Behavior as a combination, will be one of the key elements to build Rural Entrepreneurship with Circular Economy . Investing in both will lead to building sustainable solutions. For the past few years, there has been a great focus on Skilling and Vocational Education, and leveraging the same with competency building could evolve into building capacity at the rural level.

An example from the garment Industry

When conversing with few of the units in garment manufacturing which employ labour from Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa, Jharkhand – areas where there are no possibilities of livelihood, we proposed to set up the facility in the place from where they belong.

One of them, with deep roots there and with a political background, commented “this will not happen, as the people will have high egos when they are home and will not do stitching work”. The skills are available, but the behavior (culture) is missing. The cultural ecosystem of the region is unable to accept that men can stitch women’s clothes? The same people who will sweat it out in other parts of India or overseas, would not put in the same effort working in their backyard. I could relate this to almost all the states, be it advanced or backward.

Meemansa has taken up this task and engaged with NGOs/SHGs in Tonk and Udaipur (Rajasthan), Khajuraho (MP), Mumbai low income areas and Wardha (Maharashtra), Old Delhi low income groups, setting up proof of concept of how livelihood starting with the production of simple bags which serve the circular economy and SDGs on plastic replacement, cloth 100% usage and livelihood with one project.

Training centers, through their partners, assure continuous work by getting orders from retail stores and product marketing, and bringing income to the rural belt as well as low income groups.

As this gets set up, the long term idea of taking the main stream production of garments to the rural belt is not so far! After engaging designers of repute such as Priyanka Bapna, the next step will be to promote entrepreneurship within the rural ecosystem, who will take up not only production but also selling the products in the rural belt, fulfilling the aspirations of getting garments which are out of reach for them.

Building Sustainability

Rhino Machines ACE Foundation Swiss trainingLet us look at how Rhino and its associates have worked with the garments industry.  In order to make it sustainable, two distinct needs are also being stitched together, the latest Swiss Style Education at ACE Foundation to nurture young talent with the latest technology and skills (making them ready for Industry 4.0), and at the same time make building decentralized manufacturing, distribution through building a value chain through the Empretec ecosystem, where senior entrepreneurs invest in the youth and startups, encouraging leveraging of their skill sets, innovations and ideas, plugging them into the global ecosystems.

We are not only working on the core manufacturing areas, but also integrating the Cyber-Physical technologies – Samarth Udyog 4.0 to the grass roots in small packages, ensuring that the present modern education and the conventional manufacturing find convergence, thus bridging the gap between the present and future skill sets with the everyday needs, making modern vocational multi-skilled education aspirational and sustainable.

We are also working on bringing the concept of circular economy, finding solutions to use the resources to 100% e.g. in case of agricultural industry, the wastage from food waste is being converted into gas and bio fertilizer (gradually replacing chemical fertilizers), sand from mining is being reused and waste converted to bricks or flower pots (replacing cement and good soil), etc. These again bring the possibilities of shifting the production back to the rural belt with innovative and sustainability oriented ventures – all aligned to SDGs as defined by the UN.

Budget 2019 – focus on promotion of capacity building: possible outcomes and gains

The present budget’s focus on promoting capacity building growth in the rural ecosystem, will have the following possible outcomes and gains:

  • Reduction in migration and need to invest in heavy infrastructure in the cities/urban
  • Reduction in “trade deficit” of villages, as migration reduces, and spending in the village allows supporting services to prosper
  • Reduction in resource consumptions – lesser transport, lesser fuel consumption
  • Increase in resource efficiency from an abysmal 22% aggregate today as innovative technologies and awareness increases
  • Improved employability and working conditions, better health and prosperity
  • Reduction in income disparity as income at rural belt increases
  • Financial inclusion and empowerment of women workforce who did not have opportunities in the villages
  • Growth and promotion of traditional art, as they get access to market with technology
  • Rural ecosystem connecting to Transnational and Regional Value chains, bringing sustainable livelihood in their own backyard.

The challenges to the system will be many, as this shift calls for a huge paradigm shift, the mindset and cultural change, the acceptance of women being part of the economy in the rural belt, political and social challenges – but the modern India and the new India is now understanding both the opportunities and challenges, and the youth are getting ready to join this change!

Can this be the new India we all look forward to? Can this bring back the old glory of India when it contributed to 60% of the world GDP while today it is only 1%? Its time to think and take it forward.

Author: Manish Kothari, Managing Director, Rhino Machines Pvt Ltd; Director, ACE Foundation; Mission Director, Empretec India Foundation; Email : manish@rhinomachine.com

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