May 21: Experts and startup industry leaders have laid emphasis on interconnection between agriculture and industry and the use of technology for businesses to sustain in the modern day world.
Speaking at a panel discussion of the NewBiz Summit and Awards 2023 organized by New Business Age on Friday, Sunita Nhemaphuki, founder of R&D Innovative Solutions Pvt Ltd, said that there is still a misconception in society that those who engage in agriculture are poor. According to her, the agriculture sector has no investment opportunities and lacks enterprise.
She said that there are misconceptions that agriculture is associated with poverty, lacks investment, and lacks entrepreneurial opportunities.
Contrary to this view, she shared that if we look at the global scenario, agriculture is followed by industry and service sectors. However, in Nepal, we have already switched to a service-oriented industry, she said adding, Nepal, due to its topography, has huge potential in organic farming. According to her, agricultural production needs to be connected with the industry.
“Someone has to lobby to connect with the industry.”
The key to success in the modern day is technology, admitted Nhemaphuki.
“I am very much impressed with the link between agriculture and technology in Bangladesh and India,” she said.
The use of technology during Covid-19 has expanded rapidly. Kisan Credit Card and QR code have been implemented to connect the farmers with the banks. Software companies were made partners and now the government is also recognizing them, she added.
Giving the example of the Covid-19 period when the demand for agriculture products was high, she added that the importance of the food industry has increased.
“We are here to help those who are engaged in agriculture. With the right strategies, investments, and innovation, the agriculture sector can be transformed into a profitable and thriving industry,” she opined.
Our aim is to implement modern farming practices, promote agro-processing, and develop high-value agricultural products, she said.
“By adding value to agricultural commodities and tapping into niche markets, we can create a competitive advantage and contribute to the growth of the agriculture sector.”
Similarly, Rahul Malla Thakuri, assistant vice president - commercial at Upaya, shared that the journey of Upaya started four years ago.
“By the end of 2018, the use of technology, smartphones, and the Internet was increasing. In Nepal, the use of technology other than logistics was good. Every other sector, including food and e-commerce, was blooming. We did our research and found logistics as the missing piece in the growing digital arena and thus started our business by booking transport vehicles,” he said.
Likewise, Baburam Gautam, director general of the Department of Industry said that the main element of the ecosystem in promoting trade and industry is the government. However, there is a gap in the policy of exporting competent manpower, said Gautam, adding, “The startup policy is ready. The department has got the job of startup enterprise loan. It is said that loans will be given in the form of seed capital. Work is being done accordingly. Business is on one side, idea is on the other side. The government is working to the build the startup ecosystem.”
When asked why is the recently implemented start-up policy procedure important, Gautam said that the it is a procedure to grant loans by the government.
“Provisions such as turnover of Rs 5 million, fixed capital of Rs 20 million, and innovation have been specified. There is also an evaluation section. A total of 700 applications are still pending in the Ministry of Finance, Planning Commission.”
Meanwhile, answering moderator Asmod Karki's question - how easy is it for a start-up to get funds, Thakuri mentioned that it took about a year for the business operation to come to normalcy after the lockdown and they collaborated with different organizations to raise funds.
“When raising funds, it is important to carefully consider where to invest, how to approach it and understand the investors' desires. Building a reliable and trustworthy team is crucial,” said Thakuri.
Similarly, Gautam said that all startups need ecosystem culture.
“It should start from home. There are 78 elements of the ecosystem. The policy has been drafted in such a way that it will be addressed by the upcoming policies and programs.”
Responding to the question that the new generation, which is not attracted to agriculture, has forgotten what to cultivate and when and that a lot of land is becoming barren, Nhemaphuki replied that only three per cent of the total population in Israel are farmers, and yet they export.
“Engineers and other professions are also involved in agriculture. We have a misconception here that agriculture leads to suffering. It is necessary to connect agriculture with the industry.”
Baburam Gautam, Director General of the Industry Department, Sunita Nhemaphuki, Founder of R&D Innovative Solutions Pvt. Ltd., and Rahul Malla Thakuri, Assistant Vice President - Commercial at Upaya, participated as speakers in the panel discussion on the theme 'Towards Startup Nation'. The panel discussion was facilitated by Asmod Karki, co-founder and head of operation of Vikasa Tech.