When we achieved independence nearly seven decades ago, India was primarily an agrarian economy with a majority of the population dependent on agriculture and rural livelihoods; and even today a large percentage of our population continue to be dependent on agriculture. In the fifties and sixties, India was not fully self-sufficient in foodgrains as well as livestock products like milk with imports accounting for a substantial share of domestic consumption.
In case of milk, the model of dairy development based on linking producers to the urban markets by organizing producers under institutions owned and controlled by them, led to the remarkable growth in milk production, which helped us in not only becoming self-sufficient in milk but also become the world’s largest milk producer.
Much of this would not have been possible without the professionals that helped these institutions to grow. Recognizing the need for an exclusive institution, Dr Verghese Kurien was instrumental in setting up Institute of Rural Management, Anand (IRMA), to fulfill the mission of developing a cadre of professional managers who would serve not only producer institutions but also other development organizations that would help in all round development of our rural areas.
Over the years, nearly 2800 students have graduated from IRMA in the discipline of rural management, many of whom are now leaders and CEOs in their organizations. Their contributions have helped millions of our farmers and rural households in a myriad of ways.
With its vast experience in developing human resources for the rural sector and the growing credibility of its alumni and faculty, IRMA is uniquely placed to deliver on its mandate as envisaged by its founders.
However we face a multitude of challenges in preparing the next generation of rural managers, of which the most difficult one would be attracting and retaining the right kind of talent to consider participating in IRMA’s programmes, for a lifetime of work that may not yield financial compensation that can match for profit firms.
Yet we must pursue with greater efforts to persuade such talent to pursue a career in organizations, which have mandates for ensuring sustainable and inclusive economic growth for the millions of disadvantaged households.
We must also continuously prepare to meet other challenges that arise from fast changing technology, dynamic markets and volatile nature, which will continue to unleash both immense opportunities and pressures on individuals and organizations. As a responsive and responsible institution, it will be IRMA’s duty to prepare the next generation of professionals and equip them to handle the emerging challenges and opportunities and to build and strengthen resilient and sustainable institutions to serve rural India.