From Mentorship to Networking Advantages: How Incubators Are Driving the Growth of Agri-tech Sector
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The agriculture sector is one of the biggest contributors to the Indian economy. It is still woefully fragmented and unorganized. The scope for building a seamless ecosystem in the agri-technology space is very humongous. The start-up community has seen a lot of traction and escalation in this sector, and India is home to over 450 agri-tech initiatives. The growth is exponential to the tune of over 25% YOY.
The highly volatile nature and seasonal aspect of the business have many challenges for the entrepreneurs in the initial handholding stage. The rates for success multiply when the start-up gets the opportunity to be incubated in a Technology Business Incubator. It will attract strong mentorship in the form of corporate leaders who drive smart market insights and consumer surveys that can make a huge difference.
As India develops to become a start-up hub, Incubators/Accelerators (I/As) play a vital role in this growth by providing mentorship, nurturing ideas, providing technical support, generating funds and thus, helping acquire new customers. In the last few years, the number of incubators and accelerators has grown by 40%, with more than 40 new ones added in 2016, according to a new report by Nasscom. But many of us often fail to understand how these technology incubators can play a vital role in transforming the agri-tech sector.
To make understand how essential these incubators are Entrepreneur India spoke with, Dr. Manisha Acharya, CEO, Indigrams Labs and here are a few things she points out.
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 are of immense value in the initial phase when the start-up is struggling to find its feet in the open market,” said Dr. Acharya.
She also points out that market linkages and networks are an essential part of any agribusiness becoming sustainable. Technology incubators can use their network to bolster the logistics and storage needs of the early-stage ventures.
The Technology incubators are fundamental in raising capital, pitch refinement, and obtaining statutory Government approvals. Technology and knowledge-driven start-ups often find Technology incubators integral to their dissemination of product technologies and ideation.
“The input in the Research and Development technology segment ensures the survival and stability of these ventures. A feasible product development ecosystem from the very beginning under the able guidance of the mentors can be the palpable difference between failure and success,” she said.
That was about the role a technology-based incubator can play in improving the growth and transforming a business venture. However, Agritech is one field that’s yet untapped and needs to be transformed to its core.
Talking about the same Dr. Acharya said, “Agritech is one of the few sectors that is yet to be disrupted. There are many opportunities to create depth. We don’t know if there can be a Flipkart-like player in agritech, only time will tell. But if any startup can capture even five percent of the farm base, that will lead to a $100-billion valuation”.
A Host of Services:
These incubators can provide or procure ample services to the Agri-preneurs which includes using the grounds of the host institute, along with basic facilities like communication, computers, cafeteria and conference spaces.
How does it help? “This reduces initial costs and can help the initiative get the jump start it needs to thrive in the challenging market scenario prevalent today. The incubator is dedicated to nurturing the start-up for 2-3 years. A word of attention, though, not all ventures can succeed in the harsh and competitive market environment,” she answers.
We all know that farmers are liberal in some areas and are keen to try out new products. But others may be sensitive and not very trusting. In such cases, startups usually take the help of NGOs or village entrepreneurs. Incubators can improve access to farmers, and help to confirm their product on the ground.
“The agriculture industry is fragmented and chaotic in India. There is a need to connect the potential that the sector offers to harness the growth and make it sustainable. The need for technological innovation to find solutions to everyday problems is the need of the hour. Thrifty innovations in the agri sector will help the economy grow in the long run,” she said.
Transfer of Technology and Knowledge
It is a fact that most of the entrepreneurs in this particular sector require knowledge dissemination in the Government E-tendering processes. And that where an incubator is of immense help in facilitating the transfer of technology and knowledge and helps snag the initial B2B contracts that can start the journey towards success. The availability of multiple value-added services under one roof makes the task easier all around.
What Mentor Brings on The Table:
Last but not least, 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. This, in itself, can save the start-up precious time and resources that can be put to good use in other areas,” explains Dr. Archarya.
Business and Wealth:
The Technology incubator culture is ideal for fostering the culture of entrepreneurship to generate robust business and wealth. The idea is to build a sustainable venture in the agriculture space that can reduce wastage, improve yields, and create a dynamic and organized business structure.
“The incubators can help an initiative find its feet and guide it through stormy waters in the beginning by providing infrastructure, finance, and mentorship. The aim is to reach projected milestones to build self-employment and entrepreneurial zeal,” she said.
The Scope of Agri-Tech
Agri-tech startups have a vast scope to improve livelihood opportunities in rural India. Intervention in sustainable agricultural processes, livestock management, skill development, market linkages, effective network of logistics infrastructure, sustainable pricing conventions, and robust market linkages will contribute enormously to rural economic development and food security goals in the country. Incubators are set to interrupt the Indian startup landscape in a big way.