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BLOG-33: Fostering entrepreneurship through Agribusiness Incubation: Role of extension professionals

Development of competitive agribusiness enterprises is critical for creation of new jobs and promotion of farm livelihood diversification. Though extension professionals could play a very useful role in this endeavor, the field of agribusiness incubation hasn’t yet got into the education and training curricula of extension professionals. Dr P Sethuraman Sivakumar and Mr I Sivaraman discuss the importance of agribusiness incubators and how extension professionals can support the incubation process in this blog.

 P. Sethuraman Sivakumar is Senior Scientist, Central Tuber Crops Research Institute (ICAR-CTCRI) Sreekariyam, Thiruvananthapuram – 695017, Kerala, India.
Email: sethu_73@fulbrightmail.org

 

Mr. I. Sivaraman is currently a Fulbright-Nehru Doctoral and Professional Research Fellow at the Food and Resource Econimics Department, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, USA. He is a Ph.D. Scholar (Fisheries Extension) at the Fisheries Economics, Extension and Statistics, Central Institute of Fisheries Education, Mumbai 400 061, India (fishiva26@gmail.com).

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  • I agree that revising curricula takes time and concepts are changing fast. However, business incubation is not just a concept like many others, it is a way of creating economic growth in real life. Business incubators are powerful mechanisms of creating technology enterprises as indicated by the National Business Incubation Association (NBIA) of USA which states that 1. Every 50 jobs created by an incubator client generate approximately 25 more jobs in the same community. 2. NBIA incubators have reported that 87 percent of all firms that have graduated from their incubators are still in business. 3. Incubators create jobs at a cost of about $1,100 each, whereas other publicly supported job creation mechanisms cost more than $10,000 per job created. So, it is high time that extension fraternity should look into this mechanism for developing agri-enterprises.term

  • Dr Sethuraman, It would be good idea, if you organize training programs on specialized business management skills for extension scientists. When I say long way to go, I mean curriculum revision takes a long time in our system. But when things are changing fast, concepts are also getting irrelevant soon, so has to be fast the process of revising the curriculum! hoping for the best

  • Dr Mahesh Chander Dr SVN Rao Thanks for the constructive comments on our blog paper. Agri-business incubation is the proven way to accelerate entrepreneurial development in agriculture and a popular ToT method in Western countries. I remember a comment made by Shri Subodh Kant Sahay, Minister for Food Processing Industries a couple of years ago at an IIM conference about Shri. Sharad Pawar telling him that Agriculture Ministry wont survive without help from the food processing industries. Entrepreneurship development is the need of the hour and ABIs are established ways to create medium and large scale Industries. In my opinion, the medium and the large scale Industries are the only way to help the small and medium farmers to get assured price for their produce. In the era of MNCs dominating food retail sector (including raw and processed form of food), small scale industries cant make significant impact on the farming community. A humble beginning has already been made in India under NAIP by establishing several ABIs in various regions of India. I agree with Dr SVN Rao that there are few or no capacity development programs on agribusiness incubation for extension professionals. Infact, there is a shortage of qualified trainers in the ABIs established under NAIP, since most of them are managed by PGDM/MBA graduates from premier business management Institutes, not the people from any agricultural disciplines. Even in the existing ABIs, the scientists from Food processing/post-harvest/ economics backgrounds are playing major roles, though they do not possess specialized skills that are required for commercializing technologies. Similar situation persists in the Institute Technology Management Units (ITMU)of ICAR Institutes too. Since Agribusiness incubation is a part of ToT and extension personnel are the only ToT specialists of all agricultural disciplies, we should take a lead role in technology commercialization. In most ABIs/ ITMUs, the roles of many positions are not clearly defined,it is high time that extension professionals should take up a significant role to prove our capability. Sadly, our extension curricula (both college level and continuous education) is not providing necessary skills to maximize the efficiency of extension professions to develop viable enterprises. Most of our entrepreneurship training programs are theory oriented which provide very little or no skills which are required for developing enterprises in real life. There is a acute shortage of expertise on the tools and techniques of identifying a business idea, analyzing market situation, developing a viable business plan, financial management, branding, human resource management, logistics management, CRM, market intelligence, value chain mapping and analysis etc. It is high time to look deep into extension curricula before loosing our edge as ToT experts. Let us not repeat the mistakes of our past, where the adoption research was hijacked by agricultural economists, as many of the highly cited papers on adoption of agricultural technologies are published by economists, not extension scientists. Besides, many quality papers on PRA are published by agronomists/soil scientists, and participatory research is now the work of breeders. Many FLD experts are now breeders and agronomists, not extension scientists. We are cornered as SUPPORT scientists who are educators (who undertake visitor service, organize outreach programs, help other discipline scientists to organize their programs), communicators (event managers, editors of Institute publications, manager of ARIS labs etc), and helpers (helps others in germplasm collection, monitor their field trials, prepare report and other communication materials etc) without any significant research outcome. I prefer to disagree with Dr Mahesh Chander, if we wait for long to modify our curriculum, we will end up as support scientists or sometimes we will loose our place in ARS system to other specializations like agri-business/rural management and agricultural economics. I would like to take an initial step next year by organizing training programs to extension scientists on specialized business management skills, if permitted by my Institute authorities.

  • This blog makes an interesting reading about agribusiness incubation and I congratulate the authors for the same. As the authors have rightly indicated that extension professionals have a key role to play in promoting agribusiness incubators and they also suggested ways and means of accelerating the process. But the mute question is whether our extension professionals have the capacity to take up this role ? When India is likely to play a very important role in the global scenario, it is high time that extension professionals must be geared to take up this new role of promoting agribusiness incubation. To my surprise, it appears that in the livestock sector (other than fisheries), though the demand for livestock products is increasing at a faster rate, the concept of agribusiness incubation is yet to hatch. I am not aware whether any institution(s) in India is organising capacity development programmes for extension professionals with a focus on agribusiness incubation.