Bengaluru: The Karnataka government is tapping companies across the country to help train youngsters in its countryside become entrepreneurs.
The state’s social welfare department is trying to link the industry and beneficiaries to ensure both parties gain, as well as help the distressed rural economy and contain migration.
“We are trying to facilitate things to ensure that money, which we are putting in (from the department), actually benefits people in the long term," Priyank Kharge, minister for social welfare from the Congress said. Kharge was IT, biotechnology, science and technology and tourism minister in the previous government.
The effort comes at a time when the Congress is gearing up to consolidate its support base, especially from backward classes, ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections where it will take on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Kharge, who co-founded and successfully exited four start-ups before entering politics, hopes his efforts would help train at least 5,000 people this year alone.
“Hello, @HUL_News @CocaCola_Ind @PepsiIndia @PepsiCo @ITCCorpCom @ParleFamily @GoodDayCookies The Dept of Social Welfare, Govt of Karnataka is looking for partners/mentors to encourage 5,000 rural retail entrepreneurs in our state. If keen to partner, please DM," the minister tweeted on 20 June.
The government hopes the private company would give the brand, training, design and the department would help beneficiaries get trained and help set up such outlets, providing new markets for the former and better incomes for the latter.
The H.D. Kumaraswamy-led coalition government, in its first budget presented last week, also proposed a “social entrepreneurship scheme," under which financial assistance of a maximum of ₹ 10 lakh would be provided to 5,000 young SC/ST men and women to commence income-accruing activities in cities and villages in collaboration with the government and private branded institutes.
“We are going to concentrate only on education, economic empowerment activities and need-based infrastructure," Kharge said. The Congress has insisted on retaining the social welfare department in the coalition agreement with Janata Dal (Secular) to continue its schemes and attract backward classes votes.
The previous Siddaramaiah-led Congress government also focused significantly on social welfare. According to the 2018-19 budget presented by former chief minister Siddaramaiah, the Karnataka Scheduled Castes Sub-Plan and Tribal Sub-Plan Act, 2013 was implemented by providing funds of up to ₹ 88,395 crore as against ₹ 22,261 crore provided from 2008-13, when BJP ruled the state. The budget added that during the period from 2008 to 2013 an amount of ₹ 9,542 crore was provided to the department while the Congress allocated ₹ 23,798 crore.
The Congress, including its president Rahul Gandhi, has regularly spoken of these allocations to highlight the focus of the party towards scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and other backward classes before the May elections.
Kharge said he had met several companies, and some such as Chai Point (Mountain Trail Foods Pvt Ltd) and ITC Ltd have responded positively.
“His thought process was if Chai Point could act as a contributor towards streaming and enabling these potential micro-entrepreneurs, who will be funded by some sort of a government scheme, then they can, under the umbrella of the government, set up stand-alone stores and create a sustainable micro-business," said Amuleek Singh Bijral, chief executive officer and co-founder of Chai Point. He said the discussions are at an early stage and the company is yet to detail the benefits to its own brand by participating in such an exercise.