30 Dec 2019 17:09 IST

Why agri-business management should be on your radar

With the sharp focus on raising farm productivity, the need for agri-biz managers is increasing

It is well known that the farm sector plays an important role in the country’s economy. Agriculture and allied sectors contribute 16 per cent of the country’s total GDP and are the source of income for a significant chunk (almost 50 per cent) of the working population.

But the sector has a host of issues that need to be dealt with — extreme weather events linked to climate change, unfair trade practices, deficient policies, unavailability of proper sales channels leading to the dominance of middlemen, and the disturbing and growing incidence of farmer suicides, primarily due to indebtedness. Unfortunately, the sector has been neglected and not given the attention it deserves.It has neither been considered a desirable alternative for job-seekers nor an option for new business ventures. Though the Centre has started taking corrective measures and initiated several remedial policies, there is a long way to go.

Need for skilled workers

The biggest concern is the tremendous shortage of skilled professionals. Due to the lack of adequate training and proper education, there is a huge demand-supply gap. Inventory management, efficient sales channels, marketing, and promotion — almost every branch needs skilled and trained professionals who can help revive and flourish the sector with their innovative and technologically advanced ideas.

This is where education comes into play. The right guidance and knowledge about the industry can create a competent workforce. Given the growing concern with boosting the efficiency of farming practices and assuring farmers of the right markets for their produce, agri-business management will, in the coming years, become one of the most popular management courses among students, perhaps even topping the list of options in the management stream.

The steady demand for management graduates in agri-business has encouraged many prominent educational institutes to introduce courses catering to this sector.

Some of the topics that are covered in such courses are agricultural and food policy, agricultural finance, value chain management, social entrepreneurship, economics of food quality, international agri-food trade, and food supply-chain management. Aspects of markets and pricing, sales and distribution management are also covered. .

Popular institutes offering agri-business courses are IIM Ahmedabad, IIM Lucknow, Xavier Institute of Social Service (XISS) Ranchi, KIIT School of Rural Management, Bhubaneswar, Indian Institute of Plantation Management Bengaluru (IIPMB) and IIFM Bhopal.

However, the number of institutes that offer these courses is still very low, and can barely accommodate a fraction of the students who need specialised training to address the sector’s immediate requirements.

Technological innovation

Recently, the Centre announced the setting up of a dedicated cell to promote agri start-ups to help farmers cut costs and engance their incomes. This will further encourage new generation entrepreneurs to focus on technological innovation. Fortunately, the global agro-product manufacturing companies see India as one of the markets with the highest potential in South-Asia currently.

Interestingly, in the last five years, there has been consistent growth in salaries in this sector.According to the Centre, the agriculture will be at the forefront in helping the Indian economy achieve the ₹5-trillion target by 2024 and it is, therefore, ready to invest heavily for the sector’s improvement.

Naturally, this is the most opportune and exciting time for agriculture and its allied industries such as food and beverages, farm machinery manufacturing, sericulture, horticulture and dairy farming, and hence pursuing a career in this area, while challenging, could also be most rewarding.

(The writer is Chairman, ASM Group of Institutes. Views are personal.)