Big Bet Ideas

India is now the world’s most populous country. With over half of its population below the age of 25, there is an unparalleled opportunity for widespread prosperity. The National Commission on Population estimates that even by 2050, half of India’s population will continue to live outside of its cities, underlining the importance of rural areas in the country’s aspirations. 

Major disruptors are already bringing about a paradigm shift in rural India. But these changes are likely to expand opportunities for prosperity.


Demographic shift

In just a decade India will have over 1 billion working-age people, approximately 67% of whom will come from rural areas and 48% will be women.


Accelerating Rurbanisation

There will be an emergence of large villages, towns and districts which will serve as central points for investments by large businesses.


Rise in Technology

Rural India is a huge demographic, accounting for 425 million digital consumers – that’s 45% more than urban users.


Green Transition

At the COP26 global summit, India announced its goal to have net-zero emissions by 2070, allocating $4.3 billion in the 2023-2024 budget to help achieve this.


Universal Basic Income

The idea of a universal basic income (UBI) is gaining traction post the pandemic, which could guarantee a minimum income to all citizens to ensure everyone has a liveable income.

In line with the megatrends, we are betting on some bold initiatives. These ‘Big Bets’, although tinged with uncertainty, are a huge leap forward to realise our vision of Regenerative Development. We are channeling our institutional energy and intellectual capital in these ideas to address known and unknown challenges through creative disruption.

Ideas worth
rooting for

In the 2022 UN Sustainable Development Goals Index, India ranked 121 out of 163 countries – a decline from previous years. Reports from Lancet and NITI Aayog highlight that India is off-track on 19 indicators, impacting social, economic and environmental sustainability. 

Currently, 800 million Indians receive free rations, but the focus is on turning that group into a productive workforce, especially in rural areas. To achieve this and ensure double-digit growth with reduced inequality, fail-safe social protection measures and rural development are vital, including promoting high-yield agriculture, new rural manufacturing and a growth-oriented “new deal.”

big bet 1

High Income Natural Farming

A rapidly rising population meant agriculture had to modernise in order to feed billions. But there was an environmental cost. Modern agriculture consumes 69% of fresh water and emits 18% of greenhouse gases, harming soil, water and biodiversity. Natural farming is crucial for achieving net-zero commitments, but low margins and high variation pose risks to four-fifths of Indians depending on farming. 

Even current practices are risky for smallholders, who rely on external inputs and monotonous crops. Smallholders must adopt more resilient cropping systems and produce attractive crops for markets. Natural and circular farming can enhance resource capacity, build healthy soils and reduce market risks. This approach is based on diversified cropping systems, including livestock, and provides a more stable income.

Objectives of shifting to high-income natural farming

  • Restoration of soil health, including the capture of atmospheric carbon to mitigate climate change
  • Reversal of biodiversity loss at farm and local ecosystem levels
    Increased and diversified food production
  • Recycle and maintain scarce farm resources
  • Significantly enhanced income

Progress so far

Along with farmers and experts, we have developed the model for high income natural farming which includes

  • Building the skills and capacities of small farmers
  • Diversification and intensification of the farming system leading to resilient and remunerative food production with local context-specific toolbox of processes & practices
  • Integration with supply chain through village-based entrepreneurship 
  • Schemes for government partnership and private sector investments 
  • Local enterprises to produce and sell bio products to support nonchemical crop production & protection
big bet 2

Rural Manufacturing and Service Growth

To boost the state economy, where agriculture dominates and industries decline, a shift is essential. Current jobless growth and low productivity indicate limitations of the industrial and service sectors. Achieving higher per capita income ($21,000) needs substantial growth in agriculture (4x), industry (14x), and services (10x), reshaping the traditional approach.

The “new rural growth paradigm” focuses on local value-growth, leveraging resources, and promoting digital-first manufacturing and service growth. The focus is on harnessing rural competitive advantages in the bio-economy and leveraging digitisation to eliminate economic barriers. Disrupting the rural economy while emphasising agricultural growth is crucial for facilitating the transition of labour from agriculture to secondary and tertiary sectors, leading to higher productivity and income.

Opportunities for Growth for Farm-allied and Non-Farm Sectors

  • Large villages (which are almost a quarter of the rural population) with urban occupational tendencies are expected to significantly increase. This will be a natural lever for manufacturing and service industries to grow in India.
    The primary sector, including high-value agriculture, forestry and textiles have near-rural linkages to secondary and tertiary sectors, such as food and bio-based value chains including tourism, carbon sequestration and water. Business models related to food, bio-based activities and ecosystem services connected to the availability of renewable resources create comparative advantages for the “rural sector.”
  • Incentivising the establishment of textile industries, small-scale modern industries and new dynamic rural industries that are agro, forest and mineral-based can generate local employment and investment.
  • Several mini and nano enterprises are supported by initiatives like MGNREGS, NRLM, Kaushal Bharat and RSETI, along with public financing. Village industries – from processing cereals and pulses to handicrafts and manufacturing oils and paper – can also leverage e-commerce platforms.
  • Skill hubs in industrial clusters will form a big part of the job opportunities in the service sector, spanning areas like food service, logistics and retail.

We intend to develop a prototype for Rural Economic Zones (REZs) created from the ground up in ten large villages. The REZs would consist of complementary rural businesses that would receive the full gamut of help and support - from procuring and servicing machinery to storing and distributing goods, from building up service sectors to creating business-to-customer and business-to-business market stands.