Mission Rural India

Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the now celebrated captain of the Indian cricket team has repeatedly said: “We have the talent. We just need to get on the field and do our job”. Isn’t that what it’s all about? Team India today is the world’s no. 1 test team purely because of the simplicity with which they went about their mission. They had several contributors along the way; from champion batsmen to intelligent selectors everyone did their job. Mission rural India, though a lot more complicated, can draw several lessons from Team India’s success. The first lesson is to simplify the mission, breakdown the end goal and establish smaller milestones. Passing these milestones will provide the impetus to keep making progress.

The mandate is clear, inclusive growth is going to be the mantra of the coming decade. To achieve our mission is not going to be easy, but the first step will be to get all the stakeholders, primarily the government and private sector, to join hands and work together. Our cover story in this edition focuses on the opportunities rural India presents for growth. We spoke to several experts including Pradeep Kashyap, the founder and CEO of rural management consulting firm MART and co-creator of Hindustan Lever’s Project Shakti; S. Sivakumar, CEO of ITC’s rural business division and Harish Bijoor, a marketing consultant who also teaches the Rural Marketing course at the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad. At a fundamental level, rural India has to be approached with a two-pronged strategy. One: we need to cater to the needs of the people living in rural India. This includes everything from basic needs like food and health facilities to providing them with the roads and Internet connectivity needed for growth. Two: we need to enhance the spending power and earning capacity of the rural consumer. Initiatives like eChoupal that help farmers get a better price for their agri-produce has contributed tremendously, but we need more such initiatives. We also spoke to Dr. Ashok Jhunjhunwala, Chairman of Rural Technology Business Incubator (RTBI) at IIT Madras. RTBI empowers entrepreneurs who are looking at starting up sustainable ventures focused on rural India. While these startups provide jobs and play their role in uplifting rural India, all these ventures are commercial businesses that make economic sense. Our story uncovers rural India from all angles: startup entrepreneurs, initiatives from some of India’s most well known companies and most importantly the rural consumer.

In our ‘Starting Up’ section, we feature two startups, Myntra and Suvidhaa Infoserve. Myntra.com is an online store that sells personalised gifts. The story of Myntra talks about several aspects of running a startup. Mukesh Bansal, the founder of Myntra worked in four different startups before he turned entrepreneur. He understood the challenges he had to overcome right from the beginning. My favourite aspect of the story is about how Mukesh hired his early-stage team. The other startup we feature, Suvidhaa Infoserve, is a services-commerce venture which functions on the basic principle of providing easy access to several services. In a neighbourhood store, a customer could book a railway ticket or pay his telephone bill. The Suvidhaa story is a lesson on scaling up a startup. Today they have 15000 outlets across 20 states and 400 cities in India.

At The Smart CEO, we hope the coming decade will belong to ‘Inclusive Growth’. India and the Indian business world are certainly going through a revolution. A revolution that can transform the world and create a market of 1 billion people. We are committed to the cause of capturing this transformation and delivering a first-hand perspective of the changes we’re going to see.

We hope you enjoy reading The Smart CEO.