Sanjiv Puri, Chairman and Managing Director, ITC Ltd, on Sunday said that agriculture and wood-based industry would be important lifelines of the Indian economy, given the challenges of livelihood and job losses.

While agriculture is an integral part of our economy, however, the sector is confronted with several challenges.

“We have serious challenges of sustainability in the sector because India is a water-stressed country. There are also challenges of productivity, farm income and sustainability, but we also have an opportunity because India has the largest arable land in the world. But we have a small share in the global trade in the world, so there is tremendous opportunity,” said Puri at a webinar on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the NGO, Bandhan-Konnagar.

As the country’s population increases and the income levels rise, there will be a greater need for value-added agriculture and that is an opportunity for the industry and enterprises.

“Given the transformation of this sector and the rising farm incomes can spur a virtuous cycle of investments, employment, growth preceded by consumption and can also lead to connected industry like food processing and other wood-based industries,” he said.

There is a need to strengthen the competitiveness of agri value chain and transform from supply-driven ecosystem to demand-driven ecosystem. The recent policy interventions by the government would give the tools to strengthen back end and the market linkages.

Talking about the various initiatives undertaken by ITC, he said the company aims to empower close to 10 million farmers moving forward, up from the current four million.

Bandhan, which celebrated its 20th anniversary on Sunday, has transformed from its original avatar of an NGO called Bandhan-Konnagar, to an NBFC, and finally to a pan-India universal bank called Bandhan Bank. Bandhan-Konnagar still exists as an NGO, and is committed to running developmental interventions across healthcare, education, livelihood promotion, financial literacy and employment generation.

Bandhan’s efforts have been directed towards fostering holistic development – financial and social – and catalysing the upliftment of the underprivileged. The NGO runs a slew of programmes aimed at driving social transformation at scale.

“The last two decades have been immensely fulfilling. What started as a small effort in bringing meaningful change to the lives of the underprivileged has now become a movement. We always aimed at building scale because we believe that small is beautiful, but big is necessary. Through the concerted efforts of the entire team of Bandhan, we have been able to bring transformation to millions of households and that has been our true measure of success. While it has been two decades, for us, this is just the beginning,” said Chandra Shekhar Ghosh, Founder, Bandhan.