Meghalaya & Entrepreneurship

  1. Meghalaya is a land of myriad opportunities and challenges. It is a land-locked North Eastern state located between Bangladesh on the South and West and Assam on the North and East. The State’s population is predominantly tribal (85.9 percent as per the 2011 census), with the Khasis, Garos and Jaintias being the major tribes, in addition to the plain tribes like the Koch, Rabhas and Bodos. The languages spoken in the state include Khasi, Garo, Pnar, Hindi and English. The Khasi, Garo and Jaintia societies follow a matrilineal system, where the line of descent is from the women. The population of the State is 29.7 lakh. About 80 % of the population lives in rural areas and is dependent on agriculture and allied activities for their livelihoods.
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  3. Meghalaya has an average per capita GSDP of INR 81,098 (2017-18 data) against the national average of INR 1,14,958. Only five states- Assam, Bihar, Manipur, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh- have lower per capita GSDP than Meghalaya. In terms of human development, the State ranked 26th (among 29 Indian States) on Human Development Index (HDI) for the year 2011. It ranked 7th amongst the eight North Eastern States.
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  5. The State has many unique strengths and opportunities that have to be leveraged upon to promote sustainable development. A salubrious climate conducive to Agri-horticulture sectors and eco-tourism, untapped hydroelectric potential, human resources, forest resources, mineral resources and the social capital in the village communities are some of the key ones. Several high-value agriculture and horticulture crops viz. Strawberry, Ginger, Lakadong turmeric (with high curcumin content), Honey, Black Pepper and various exotic flowers (Anthurium, Carnation, different types of Orchids etc.), as also Potato, Jackfruit, Pine Apple and Areca Nut are produced in large quantities. Further, most of State’s agriculture and horticulture produce is naturally organic, with farmers using traditional methods of cultivation. The State’s literacy rate at 75.5% in 2011 is higher than the national average and the English-speaking skills of the population are superior to that of most large Indian States. Further, 76.5 percent of the State’s area is under forest cover, which provides global public goods and can be tapped for promoting high value eco-tourism and forestry related livelihoods and enterprises. At the grassroots, there is high levels of social capital and community spirit amongst the rural communities, which can be leveraged for fostering sustainable development.
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  7. Over the last few years, the State Government has been making concerted efforts to improve the quality of life of its citizens. In the last 8 years, poverty in the state has declined by 4.3 percentage points. In 2004-05, 16.1 percent of the State’s population lived below the poverty line. This figure has declined to 11.9 percent in 2011-12.
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  9. Despite the many strengths and opportunities, the State also faces several critical obstacles in its development efforts like inadequate infrastructure, insufficient access to markets and an underdeveloped private sector. For instance, the road density of the State is only 47.8 Km/ 100 sq. km against the national average of 170. Even amongst the NE states, Meghalaya’s road density is on the lower side of the spectrum. Several of the challenges faced by the State stem from a severe geographic disadvantage. The State is landlocked, far away from well-developed markets, has hilly terrain with very severe slopes on the Southern side and experiences heavy torrential rainfall.
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  11. Given this, the State government is crafting a development strategy that builds on our strengths and takes the challenges head on. The prime focus is to foster human development, by prioritizing education and health sectors, to improve physical, social and digital infrastructure, and to build robust rural livelihoods and enterprises in the Agri-horticulture, food processing and tourism sector. The ultimate vision is to transform Meghalaya into a high-income Indian State by 2030
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  13. Entrepreneurship is at the core of the state’s development vision. However, entrepreneurship is not a natural choice for the citizens of the State. There are many challenges to enterprise development and promotion in Meghalaya stemming from historical, geographic, economic and cultural reasons. As mentioned earlier, the per capita GDP of the State is lower than the national average and about 80 percent of the population which lives in rural areas, are engaged in agriculture and allied activities and a significant proportion of them are at a subsistence level of income and livelihoods. Private sector development in the State is at a very nascent stage and Government spending is about 30 percent of GDP compared to the national average of around 13. The geographic remoteness, the absence of a strong private sector (including the banking sector) and the overreliance on government mean that entrepreneurship is not a preferred career choice for many youths.
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  15. However, the demographic profile of Meghalaya, with 37 percent of the population in the age group of 15 – 34 years and the aspirational changes brought about by technology in a deeply connected world, make entrepreneurship an imperative for the State in the 21st century. Local employment opportunities need to be created for the 37 percent of the young population so that they are productively engaged in their communities. On the supply side, opportunities for building enterprises abound in the sectors of Agri-horticulture, food processing, tourism, digital industries and new age industries like fashion, food and music.
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  17. Given this, the State Government made significant policy and program interventions in the last few years to make entrepreneurship a viable and exciting opportunity. The objective is to build an entrepreneurial ecosystem that encourages and supports innovation, risk-taking and good-old- hard work.
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  19. Building on the experiences of the past and taking into consideration the current socio-economic realities, the State has now finalized a strong entrepreneurship focused program called PRIME – Promotion and Incubation of Market-driven Enterprises program. This will be an all-encompassing program aimed at providing targeted support to aspiring entrepreneurs through focusing on the four-pillars of market access, skill development, technology and credit linkages.
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Key initiatives of the Government to make entrepreneurship a viable and exciting opportunity

  • Establishing institutions like the Meghalaya Basin Development Authority (MBDA) and the Meghalaya Institute of Entrepreneurship (MIE) as the nodal knowledge and capacity building institutions for enterprise development.
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  • Changing the development narrative from a subsidy- based, government program-driven approach to a credit-linked enterprise approach through advocacy and IEC campaigns.
  • Setting up of Enterprise Facilitation Centers (EFCs) in every block as hubs for proving business development services (a detailed note on EFCs is at Annexure2).
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  • Focusing on bringing about convergent action across development departments so that limited resources could be effectively used