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In Conversation With M K Raju

Ranjani Saigal

M. K. Raju is the Founder-Chairman of M.K.Raju Consultanta Private Limited (MKRC) which is a leading management and energy consultancy organization.  He is a management expert of international repute. He has held top positions in both the private and public sector organizations. He has served on corporate boards of many prestigious companies, banks, financial and educational institutions. Raju played a crusading role in the management movement in the country and has authored several books. His was a lone voice in the 1960s in India, when he initiated action to become global, focussed on performance-based compensation, quality orientation, manufacturing excellence and management development.

Recently he has shifted his efforts to rural development through the National Agro Foundation (NAF), a public charitable trust that was established by Bharat Ratna C. Subramanium. 

"After independence, India had a set for itself a goal to provide adequate food (2000 calories/day), 100 sq ft of covered space and 10 meters of cloth for every Indian citizen, within 10 years after independence. This was Gandhiji's vision. Even after fifty years of independence we are nowhere near the target. One out of every three Indians is till poor, without food or shelter" says Raju.

 Since independence the government has provided a lot of funds for rural development. Why have they not had any impact?  " The focus of rural development efforts is not right. The focus has been on patronizing charity, subsidized food, free power, grants and subsidies. This has not contributed to success. India is poor because rural India is poor. Rural Indian is poor because rural people are underemployed or unemployed. Providing subsidies will not help. Providing opportunities to earn a decent living will make a difference" says Raju.

What is the solution to the problem?  Raju feels that the time has come to must shift the focus from charity to empowerment.  The rural poor should be supported to enable them to get large returns for their efforts, be it through providing technology to improve farm productivity or to provide a business opportunity so that the home has a good income. 

A holistic approach to rural development is critical for success. While technology can certainly be used to aid the rural poor, it is also critical that excellent managerial strategies are put in place to ensure success. "Current only a third of the land is irrigated. Farm productivity is very poor. Thirty percent of the food products are wasted in storage and distribution. These are managerial issues that can be solved with proper processes, " says Raju.

Raju has used  his management expertise to design programs under the auspices of the National Agro Foundation to create an impact on rural development. NAF has adopted 43 villages with over 10,000 rural families. Their goal is to bring change in the quality of life of each member of the family.

The NAF program uses a three pronged approach to facilitate development. The first act is to provide each family with a cow, which helps each housewife generate an immediate income of about Rs. 600 to Rs. 1000 with a hope of doubling it three years. The second act is to train the farmers using scientific training methods through which each farmer can improve their productive by 50 - 100%. During a three-year period they expect that using these techniques, each farmer will be able to net at least Rs 25,000 to Rs 50,000 per year. The third part is to provide vocational training in tailoring and other skills through the school. Since they are teaching skills to students with qualified, they also work on the literacy.

They use the latest technologies to improve productivity in these villages. Artificial insemination is used to produce a new generation of high milk yielding cows.  They are also setting up biomass plants and hope to generate electricity by gasification of local material. They have set up sophisticated soil testing laboratories.  They also have developed over fifty training programs on different topics including topics related to farming and to business. They have set up  five self help groups for women with over 1000 members in each.

What are the tangible goals they hope to accomplish? "Our goal is to make every rural family have the capacity to earn a minimum of Rs 50,000 per year within three years," says Raju.

What does it cost to create such a program ? "The initial infrastructure cost is about $750,000 which was partly funded by NAF. We provided an investment of $250 per family to make them self sufficient. No further help is needed" says Raju.

Raju is confident that the NAF model is a sound one. After three years, he hopes to replicate this model in other parts of India and is confident that it will help uplift the rural sector. Can NRIs help? "Most certainly. People with professional skills can help us design programs and provide us with information that could help the people. We are also looking for financial contributions. Be assured that any funds received will be an investment towards the future of India," says Raju.

To learn more about NAF please visit their website at ..


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