Entrepreneurship skills and infra, hand in hand, could bring sustainability to North East India
Authored By: Prof. Kailash Choudhary, Assistant Professor, IIM Shillong
India’s north-eastern region consists of seven sisters (i.e., Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, and Tripura) and one brother (i.e., Sikkim). The northeastern (NE) region is rich with natural resources but eco-sensitive at the same time because of 54.16% forest area. The region requires industrial development because 82% of the total population depends upon the agriculture and allied sectors, whereas the total sown area is less than 20% in many NE states. The government of India is giving special attention to the development of the NE region of the country under the flag of the ‘Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region (Ministry of DoNER)’. The focus is on infrastructure development; for better transportation through rail, road, air, and waterways, and power transmission & distribution in the NE region. The focus is also on the development of health and sports infrastructure. These development activities will attract young entrepreneurs and large industries in this region. The development activities will help to explore the hidden potential in this part of the country.
Since the market is saturated in most of the country, it has been predicted that northeast India has reasonably uncharted potential for investors’ attention to the region. Pragmatic inferences reflect that India’s top Venture Capitalists and angel networks have their eyes on the region. The government is also actively developing entrepreneurship in this region through various schemes. NEDFL Schemes under the Ministry of DoNER is one of the initiatives which is helping the new entrepreneurs by bearing 75% of their project cost. Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Shillong is also helping the region through their Centre for Development of North Eastern Region (CeDNER) and incubation and Enterprise Support Centre (IESC). CeDNER is involved in organizing short-term and long-term programmes relevant to the local community and society of the region. These courses train the participants to develop business ideas and projects that can be sustainable and relevant to society. The Institute has constituted IESE to get involved in Mentoring start-ups/Entrepreneurs and Enterprises.
The GOI initiates industrial and infrastructure development activities, but they should also take the responsibility to protect the inherent properties of this region, which leads to sustainable development. Sustainability in the country’s development activities is also essential because India pledged to reduce its carbon intensity by 33-35% by 2030 from the level of 2005 under nationally detrimental contributions (NDC) in the Paris agreement. To fulfil this pledge, each activity should be measured on an environmental, economic and social impact scale. The infrastructural development in the region by the Governments and PPP models will help in the economic and social development of the region for sure, but the ecosphere of the region should be protected through the evaluation of any project on environmental criteria.
Young entrepreneurs of the region should take this responsibility and come up with environment-friendly business ideas because they are aware of the biodiversity and its sensitivity in the region. Entrepreneurs should take an ethical obligation to serve future generations before their shareholders. The world doesn’t need more billionaires, but it needs solutions to problems in a sustainable way. Humanitarian and ecologically-oriented biz tech that puts profits second at most will define the new class of entrepreneurs with the potential for sustainable development of the northeastern region. Many initiatives already exist that have adopted the sustainable model for their business. These models are distributed in bamboo furniture production, Kiwi production and processing, food processing, handicraft, paper waste recycling, etc. The underpinning fact is that the people of the northeast have the potential to develop sustainable businesses due to the inherent culture of protecting nature which is supported by rich natural resources. NE region is a maternal society which has the potential to produce a large number of women entrepreneurs. The North East also shares international boundaries with China, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Myanmar, which shows its potential to act as export hubs. Suppose governments (i.e. centre & state) and big private players contribute more to infrastructure development and improve connectivity. In that case, this region may sustainably satisfy the local and countries’ demands.