Lath, who hails from Mihinpurwa village in Bahraich district, is the quintessential example of making it big. Having started many businesses in the oil and energy industry, Lath is the chairman of Confederation of Indian Industry’s Young Indians, Lucknow chapter, and a part of NITI Aayog’s Champions of Change programme.
Sitting at Lucknow’s Taj Mahal hotel, he says the positive outlook of India has fuelled the aspirations of the youth in rural areas.
“The sheer number of motorcycles in my village has gone up, which has in turn increased petrol consumption from 1,500 litres a day five years ago to the current 4,000 litres," said Lath, who owns petrol pumps in the village. He adds that digital payments is a reality even in rural India.
“I have been travelling internationally for 10 years, and there’s a brand equity that India has developed for its quality of products and entrepreneurial skills. German and French companies are willing to set up shop here or at least look for vendors," said Lath, who wants a decisive leader so that India remains a high priority for global investors.
Lucknow has witnessed a surge in consumption of branded apparel, entertainment and dining, fuelled by infrastructure development over the past few years, including malls, cinema halls, an international airport and, most recently, Metro connectivity.
“In the last three years, the food and beverage options have gone up significantly. Lucknow has undergone a facelift. It is under this government that we feel secure to go out to these places," said Arpit Rai, 30, founder, Weguarantee, a seller of organic food, tea and coffee. Rai, who started his venture in 2015, has witnessed a surge in demand for wellness and organic products.
The boom in the consumer economy and the growth of the city can also be attributed to the lack of development in cities near Lucknow, said Sukriti Rai, co-founder, Weguarantee. “People have no other option but to come here. Many come from Bareilly and Faizabad to spend weekends here. It points to a grave situation where only selected cities are being developed, and this will create migration and population pressures," she added.
Aarti Vaid, 30, who runs a bakery and comes from a family of real estate developers, agreed and added that red-tapism and corruption continue to be key issues for young people looking to start their own ventures. “There’s harassment from officials. Liquor licences are difficult to come by," she said. A leader who takes a stand on socio-political issues is what Vaid expects the next prime minister to be, and added that she believed Modi should get another term.
While entrepreneurship is slowly spreading its wings in the city of Nawabs, jobs continue to be a problem as more youth from adjacent cities migrate for work.
The competition has certainly gone up, said Chandresh Verma, 23, who is studying at the Times Institute of Management in Lucknow. “We need better and more schemes, such as Skill India, which must be nurtured for another five to 10 years for it to bear fruit," he added.
The focus on the girl child and women’s empowerment is hailed by Reshu Satpal, 34, a store manager for lingerie brand Enamor at Fun Republic Mall. “When I go back to my native village, Tindola, in Nawabganj tehsil of Barabanki, I see the change. The centre has constructed toilets and people are conscious about open defecation," she said. Satpal said that the centre’s Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana is helping her save and create a fund for her young daughter. “There’s a conscious push towards girl child education by this government. The LPG connections under the Ujjawala Yojana have also elevated the quality of life for rural women and I’ve personally seen it," she said.
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