TECH TALK: Rajasthan Ruminations: Rural Development and Entrepreneurship

Good Governance is one of the pillars for rural development. The second needs to capitalise on Entrepreneurship. Indians are a naturally enterprising lot. But they have been constrained by the shackles that have been imposed by state control and corrupt officials. The government needs to create an environment where entrepreneurship can flourish.

There are still too many hurdles for starting and running small businesses honestly. There is a lot one can learn from how Americas founding fathers laid our the principles of good and efficient governance, and were complemented by the efforts of entrepreneurships who together built out the physical and social infrastructure that the world looks at in awe.

There are three areas where entrepreneurs can make a difference in Rajasthan:

Artisans Marketplace: How can rural incomes be increased? One of the first steps that can be taken is to leverage the skills that the local Rajasthani people have in arts and crafts. This is an art that has been handed down from generation to generation. By providing a mechanism via the Internet for the artisans to sell globally (and also into an increasingly prosperous urban India), the Artisans Marketplace can help reduce the intermediaries in the chain and increase their incomes.

Renewable Energy: Given Indias perennial power shortage, it is surprising that not enough attention has been paid to developing alternative sources of energy. Rajasthan offers two options in the form of solar and wind power. If the best scientific minds can address these problems and come out with solutions, we can not only bridge the power gap but also build leadership in an increasingly important area of global concern.

Tourism: Rajasthans heritage has not been appropriately leveraged. What is missing is the packaging and the local infrastructure. Wrote Malvika Singh in the Financial Express recently: Travel and tourism should be freed from bureaucratic clutchesAn autonomous body should be initiated and established public and private partnership, with the same goal to make life easy, to make travel fun, to show all the great strengths of the state and the people and to allow and endorse private entrepreneurship to set up the infrastructure that is in their purview, for the visitor. It has to be hassle free. Incentives must be given to people to restore their havelis etc, some for reuse, others as examples of styles of living. Those wanting to set up museums should be given tax exemptions on their grants and donations. Each city, as a start, should have a museum run by the private sector. We all know how the public sector has maintained museums in this country of fine treasures. Eventually every district should have a museum that houses its special strength, or skill. That is what will generate pride in the people of their legacy.

Technology can be an important ally of the entrepreneurs and the government in their odyssey to transform the state. Affordable computing solutions (thin clients and open-source software) and broadband wireless technologies (WiFi) can help in the leapfrog efforts.

In many ways, Rajasthan is a proxy for rural India. Given Indias 700 million people in its 600,000 villages, developing the rural areas of India has to be a national priority if the feel-good factor in urban and semi-urban India has to sustain and the India Shining message has to penetrate deep into the heartlands of India. To bring back the glorious era of the past, Rajasthan and Rural India needs the right mix of governance , entrepreneurship and technology to put it on the road to economic development and prosperity.

TECH TALK Rajasthan Ruminations+T

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.