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Modi Cabinet Needs a Sridhar Vembu to Handle Rural Industry and Create Jobs


In his recent Mann ki Baat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke glowingly about Sridhar Vembu and his brand of entrepreneurship. Sridhar came from the Silicon Valley, set up his technology firm Zoho in a rural place in Tamil Nadu, and clearly demonstrated a new model of entrepreneurship where rural talent can shine.

In doing so, he has demonstrated that the current urban-led model of development can change across India. If one looks at the United States, technology firms as well as other high-growth companies are also present in smaller cities, and not necessarily clustered in big towns. Whereas, in India, it has become a largely urban phenomenon with congregation of talent in cities because good infrastructure does not exist in small towns.

Sridhar Vembu has demonstrated very clearly that this trend can change with his new model. The key question, however, remains: Is there room for Sridhar Vembu in policy making so that a new model of rural-led entrepreneurship in high technology areas, in areas of manufacturing etc. can be developed? This is certainly worth trying.

I will strongly suggest that Sridhar Vembu be appointed a cabinet minister or a Minister of State under Prime Minister Modi, and be given responsibility of rural industry. We have to create jobs in rural areas to ensure people get high-quality jobs in places where they stay and don’t have to emigrate to bigger cities. The big cities do not have enough capacity for expansion because they are starved for investment, subject to bad governance and high corruption in their corporations which govern them.

A rural-led model where small towns and villages can get high-quality industries is something worth trying and Sridhar Vembu certainly knows how to make it work. A cluster approach across India can be adopted and for that we need an exceptional leader who understands technology, manufacturing, industry, the talent available in rural areas and finally, how to bring it all together.

This is a new phenomenon. We have seen several entrepreneurs in the past going to rural areas and starting industry but they have not been able to scale up or build a global company of any size. Sridhar Vembu has successfully achieved that – building a global company of size that operates out of rural India – and Prime Minister Modi speaking highly of him in his Mann ki Baat is an indicator.

Now, this has to be brought to fruition with Sridhar Vembu becoming a minister for rural industry in the union cabinet. And in the next two years, he can certainly work on great policies.

It is important for India’s democracy that high achievers in the private industry and non-government sector are brought into the government. The government can only work if ministers become true representatives of citizens who vote for them, and do not become victims of the tyrannical attitude of bureaucracy which often inhibits the decision-making on the pretext that most things cannot be done.

Bringing new and fresh policy requires high energy, which many in the bureaucracy certainly lack – many are confined to protecting their turf rather than taking India forward. We need new and fresh thinkers and high achievers like Sridhar Vembu to come into the government. The government can then become truly representative of the people of this country.

T.V. Mohandas Pai is Chairman, Aarin Capital Partners. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the stand of this publication.

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