New Delhi: President Pranab Mukherjee has emphasised that the high growth that has been envisaged for India is possible only with productivity improvements across all sectors of the economy. Innovations in different segments, at different levels and for different sections will aid this process in no small measure.
Mukherjee was addressing (March 13) the concluding session of the Festival of Innovations organized by NABARD. The Festival concluded with a Round-table on “financing of innovations” with leaders of the banking and financial sectors. The week-long festival was marked by fruitful interactions between grassroots innovators and various stakeholders of the innovation eco-system, both within and outside the country.
Speaking on the occasion, the President said that the course of development of innovation involves the conversion of a novel idea into a viable product. Financing of innovation, being a critical step, the role of the banking system is paramount in the entire innovation value-chain.
A nation which performs high on innovation has, among other factors, a buoyant and supportive financial sector to leverage innovations, Mukherjee said and expressed concern that in India unfortunately, there are many instances of innovations that are languishing for want of financial support. There is an urgent need to deliberate on the strategy required for changing the climate of cooperation between innovators, investors and entrepreneurs
The President said that the government has taken several initiatives to encourage innovations and start-ups that will help generate jobs and overcome poverty. Under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana, the banking sector – primarily the public sector banks – have successfully embarked upon an ambitious drive to provide access to the weaker and poorer sections to a bank account and other financial products. Within a span of six months, the coverage under the scheme has been close to hundred percent, with a record 13.2 crore new bank accounts opened, 11.5 crore RuPay debit cards issued, and over Rs. 11,000 crore deposited.
Bringing in focus the the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana , Mukherjee also drew attention to challenges that are still to be addressed. Only a small number of those who open accounts have access to credit for improving their livelihood opportunities, he said and in particular, drew the bankers’ attention to the financial needs of the ingenious youth both in rural and urban areas that are yet to be adequately met by the banking sector. It would be appropriate if banks open dedicated counters in towns and cities to meet the needs of innovators, he asserted.
The President underscored the point that grassroots innovators are constrained by the lack of a well-established market. Some do not even possess the requisite skills and acumen to convert their innovations into sustainable and marketable products. These potential entrepreneurs require technical assistance. Hence provision of financial assistance apart, mentoring is also a significant influencing factor in the innovation-development framework. For want of mentoring and financing, many bright students who possess innovative solutions to problems either go abroad or pursue a different profession, resulting in what one may call ‘brain drift’. Arresting this trend calls for the formulation of special schemes in the banking sector to make the ideas-to-market transformation possible.
Mukherjee also pointed out that sensitization and capacity building form an important agenda of inclusive innovation system. Hence the banking system, in collaboration with the National Innovation Foundation, can help create a pool of mentors in every district to assess and meet the financial needs of the innovators. Central universities, IITs and NITs have set up Innovation Clubs to build linkages with the grassroots innovators. Banks may also join hands with these clubs to provide them requisite advice about taking innovative ideas forward. Recent initiatives like the Atal Innovation Mission and the Self-Employment and Talent Utilization (SETU) scheme will help spring up thousands of start-ups across the country, Mukherjee said adding the banking network in our country should be fully geared to meet the challenge of supporting these new entrepreneurial ventures.
Recalling the establishment of NABARD 32 years ago during his first tenure as the Finance Minister, The President said over these years, NABARD has carved a special place for itself in unfolding the story of India’s economic development. He applauded NABARD for incorporating in its corporate mission the promotion of innovative initiatives, and for working towards its achievement through a systematic and strategic approach. Particularly, the effort of NABARD in the sphere of financing rural innovations through the creation of a separate fund is praiseworthy. He also complimented the National Innovation Foundation for their singular contribution in making this first Festival of Innovations a great success.