India 2024 Elections: 6 Questions with Joydeep Dutt

We asked Joydeep Dutt, TechnoServe’s India country director, to discuss the country’s recent election and its implications for India’s future.

People stand in a field and harvest vegetables in India. Part of a Q&A on India elections.

1. What happened in India’s recent general election?

India recently finished its historic elections, which is probably the largest ever number of people voting. About 600 million people participated in this election. And all this, at the scale we are talking about, was held peacefully and within a very short period. On the 4th of June, the election results were declared on a single day, across the country, across the hundreds of thousands of voting stations. And it threw up a result which was a bit of a surprise. But it ensured the government was sworn in, which got its third historic mandate. 

2. What should we expect now from an economic perspective?

So what does it mean? As TechnoServe India, we can be very bullish on policy continuance, and we can expect that the country will continue to be on the path it has followed in the last decade or so, making it one of the fastest-growing large economies in the world. 

Just to give you numbers, India has grown at about 7% GDP from 2022 to 2023. The World Bank estimates it will continue growing at about 7.8% from 2023 to 2024, which would be more than twice the global average. This has, in turn, led to India becoming a very large consumer market. The purchasing power in GDP-PPP [purchasing power parity] terms makes India the third-largest economy in the world, with about 10.5 trillion dollars of buying power. That also leads to the fact that it’s a desirable market for most organizations and corporates in the world, and that is one reason we see a lot of investments happening. 

3. How can India manage employment opportunities for its large workforce?

As many of us know, India has one of the youngest working populations in the world. This is a great demographic dividend. And we are seeing a lot of focus on using this demographic dividend well at both policymaking levels and in the government and corporate sectors. 

We have worked with youth who come from deprived backgrounds or are from backgrounds where they are first-generation college graduates. We have worked together with colleges and institutions to create tailored programs that have helped the students become employable. 

An example of a softer skill training that we have imparted would be communication skills. How do they present themselves? And then we didn’t stop at that. We also worked with many of the corporates to understand their requirements for fresh graduates and tailored the program for those corporates. So, it became a symbiotic relationship where our candidates had an opportunity to interview with corporates, which they would otherwise not have had a chance to do. 

The program also benefited corporates by creating a ready-made pool of talent crafted for their requirements. And it worked out very well. About 70% of the students who went through our skill-building program went on to get a job, compared to 27% who didn’t work with us. 

Youth Entrepreneurship Program and Workforce Development, CREEYD Citi Youth 2017
Young people gather for a TechnoServe youth entrepreneurship and workforce development program in India.

4. What is agriculture’s importance to the Indian economy?

As many of you may be aware, farmers are a very large part of the Indian economy. India has the second-largest [amount of] arable land in the world and is a dominant powerhouse in quite a few crops and commodities. For example, India produces about a quarter of the world’s milk today. India is the largest producer of pulses and the second-largest producer of rice, wheat, sugarcane, cotton, fruits, and vegetables. 

About 40% to 45% of the country’s workforce is employed in agriculture. The current government has focused heavily on agriculture over the last 10 years, and we expect this focus to continue. 

5. How is climate change affecting India?

First, we are seeing unprecedented temperatures. Recently, Delhi recorded unheard-of temperatures of about 52.3 degrees C (126 degrees F). So you can imagine the temperatures in Bikaner in Rajasthan, which is close to the Thar desert. At the same time, the weather patterns have become erratic, throwing up a challenge that is difficult to address, a challenge our farmers face on a day-to-day basis for work. It’s a challenge to which there is no easy solution, and we at TechnoServe are working together with farmers across our projects to address this.

Chandsingh Lalaram (left to right, farmer), Rambir Ramkawar (lead farmer), Rajesh Gupta (TNS staff) and Devender Yadav, (extension agent), TechnoServe demonstration farm, Pataudi, Gurgaon district, Haryana state, India.
[left to right] Chandsingh Lalaram (farmer), Rambir Ramkawar (lead farmer), Rajesh Gupta (TechnoServe staff) and Devender Yadav (extension agent), TechnoServe demonstration farm, Pataudi, Gurgaon district, Haryana state, India.

6. How is TechnoServe working with farmers to help them deal with climate change?

We work with Walmart and Cargill. With Cargill, we work on one of the largest regenerative agriculture programs that Cargill is running. Cargill hopes that by working with us, they will be able to prioritize solutions on [regenerative agriculture] that can be deployed across Asia, the region, and globally as well. The potential impact could be large. In this project, “Sristhi,” we are talking about 10,000 farmers, 25,000 acres of land, large quantities of carbon sequestration, etc. 

In our programs, we figure out locally what interventions can work and help alleviate or reduce the suffering and improve yields. So, we look into higher-yield varieties and drought-resistant varieties together with research institutions. 

The Sustainable Guar Initiative (SGI) in Rajasthan is another example of our commitment to helping farmers adapt to climate change while improving their incomes. SGI began with 1,500 farmers in 2015 and now supports 13,000 smallholder farmers across 62 villages in one of the country’s most water-scarce regions. We are promoting drought-resistant guar seed varieties and implementing a host of climate-smart agricultural and natural resource management practices. Farmers associated with the program have witnessed a 2.8 times increase in their yield from 2015 to 2022. 

What works really is that one has to work with the farmer, understand her difficulties, and devise practices that impact her the least in terms of cost and effort. 

We are now seeing many spillover effects. So, people who are not part of our programs–farmers who are not part of our programs across many of these villages—have started adopting many of the practices that we have been showing. For us, that’s real success. 

Joydeep Dutt brings decades of experience in agriculture, technology, and management consulting in India and Africa. He has worked throughout India with leading Indian and international businesses like Olam, Unilever, Accenture, and Ernst & Young.