Archives for category: India

Who says farmers are always toiling away in the fields and do not have fun? I had a chance to meet Eshwarappa Siddappa Banakar, from Hireyadachi in Haveri district of Karnataka at the Millet Mela last weekend. The fair was jointly organised by the National Agricultural Innovation Project, University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad, Pristine Organics and Sahaja Organics. Creativity was at its best display as they put their act together to promote the use of millets in daily food habits.

Tastefully decorated stage adorned by millets

Eshwarappa had brought with him atleast two dozen varieties of millets – jowar, ragi,sajje and other medicinal plants. He adorned a beautiful cap made out of millets and had factual stories to share about the vital need to focus on alternatives to cash crops such as rice & wheat, which were popularized post The Green Revolution in India. In the conventional argument of pro-mass production drive we chose to drive the farming community to focus only on the high yielding varieties. This meant that we did not get a closer look at the local geographical conditions and choose crops which suited the micro-climate of that region. Instead, wesupplemented the soil with fertilizers and pesticides and would invest millions of dollars to build large dams which would bring in water for irrigation. Cash crops are highly water consumptive which has resulted in a variety of challenges in agriculture.

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Last week, I attended ‘Unconvention‘, a conference by Villgro, a rural business incubator based in Chennai. The conference saw entrepreneurs, investors and incubation firms coming together to discuss key strategies to start businesses and raise investments in the BoP space. With participation from representatives from Acumen Fund, NSTEDB, Ashoka, Aavishkar, Monitor’s Inclusive Markets Division, IFMR, and various successful entrepreneurs, the discussions were pretty interesting.

The conference began with a panel discussion on the future of social entrepreneurship. Discussions on innovation and impact investing followed. On one hand,Joe Madiath from GramVikas spoke about markets not being the panacea of all evils, on the other hand Ashish from Monitor spoke about the importance of scaling up. Joe’s advice for social entrepreneurs: ‘If you have passion in your belly and compassion in your heart, you are in the right place to start a social venture.’ Investor session saw VentureEast and Acumen stressing the importance of unit economics.

Day 1 ended with an award ceremony where the winners of the Wantrapreneur 2010 competition were announced. Grassroutes, one of my favourite social enterprises, won the award in the start-up category and Shradha Sharma, Founder, YourStory.in, won the best journalist award.¬† The conference ended with ‘My Story Sessions’ by entrepreneurs – Saloni Malhotra from DesiCrew Solutions, Madhabananda Ray from MASUTA Producers Company Ltd., and Svati Boghle from Sustaintech India Pvt. Ltd.

It was exciting to see so many new ventures coming up in the socent space and so many exciting discussions happening around energy, water, agriculture and livelihood. As Acara, I think we can help create a strong eco-system here, given our interactions with students, researchers, entrepreneurs, investors and corporations. We can be pipeline partners for early stage investors, innovation partners for companies who want to build new products and services in emerging technology areas, field partners for non-profits who need more hands, and research partners for universities who need more students to focus on innovative methods to solve community challenges. If you are interested in partnering with us, do write to me on sarabjeet.singh@acarainstitute.org.