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What ails entrepreneurial development?

A BOiC workshop tries to diagnose the malaise and come up with possible prescriptions for a cure

Analysis: Over 1,456 men and women between the ages of 18 and 35 were provided entrepreneurial trainings and skills by the labour and human resources ministry so far.  Of these trainees, about 193 started business.

Nu 40M was disbursed to support these start-ups and the success rate was about 82 percent.

But what exactly constitutes a success?   Is it made up by the number of those who’ve started a business?  Or should it be counted by the ones, who’ve attended the entrepreneurial development programme (EDP), and those who’ve actually, after the program, been able to start a business?

Success rate can mean different things then.

The success rate of the labour ministry could then fall, with not even 10 percent of those trained having become entrepreneurs.  The status of the remaining participants was not known.

There are about 17 agencies, within the government and outside, providing technical and financial support for entrepreneurial development.

A presentation by an official from the newly launched Business Opportunity and information Centre (BOiC), during a two-day workshop on integrated approach to entrepreneurship development programmes: Challenges, opportunities, and the way forward, stated that, while participants of such programmes, particularly the youth, have gained skills in enterprise development, the success rate of start-ups is very low. The workshop ended yesterday.

The reasons vary from access to finance, ease of doing business, issues of coordination among stakeholders, and EDP service and finance providers.

The issues that plague entrepreneurial development sector go around in circles.  But for once, in the Bhutanese context, agencies were looking at themselves to identify where the problems were.  They did not look at or point fingers at the aspiring entrepreneurs, to conveniently place on them the blame of why this endeavour, which is expected to boost the private sector, or the so-called engine of the economy, failed.

The issue of access to credit can sound deceptive.  The situation, workshop participants deliberated without end, was that it was available.  But there were many factors that made accessing funds available difficult, resulting in aspiring entrepreneurs giving up, or their project proposals getting rejected.  Project proposals often did not convince the financing agency, and they couldn’t take the risk.

Some participants reasoned that the criteria for loans excluded business that had potential, while others said proposals were rejected because what they proposed was not saleable, sustainable or convincing enough.

Some argued that it had to do with lack of skills and ideas and not access to funds. “We should consider how we should prepare them to make them eligible, capable and efficient enough for the funds,” executive director with Loden Foundation, Dorji Tashi, said, adding that the foundation had initiated a programme in university institutions a student empowerment through entrepreneur programme.

“They’ll be in the market looking for job or trying to start their own ventures,” he said. “We need to consider preparing our entrepreneurs in high schools and colleges, so when they graduate, they have skills and ideas and capacity.”

One stark constraint was the lack of ability for those, who had attended EDP workshops and trainings to put together a comprehensive business proposal, or how to study the market and its needs.  The latter resulted into duplication of ideas already in the market.  Outside markets could be explored, but was hardly done.

Why is this?  Those, who had participated as trainers for various EDP trainings, said the main reason could be the difference in education qualification of participants, and after the trainings there was a general lack of guidance and monitoring, which was the case, even after some ideas were accepted and funds released.

This challenge could also be attributed to the lack of coordination and collaboration between agencies, technical or financial support.  This called for a one-stop information system that could provide information on who is doing what, how and for whom.

The lack of coordination also extended into stakeholders, like the licensing agency, and agencies that provided clearances like the National Environment Commission, which resulted in a lengthy and tiresome process of getting a business started.

At the end of the workshop, some valuable recommendations were made that could help bring the agencies together, and this could work wonders, for the objective of them all is the same.

A need for a nodal agency – which could either be a ministry or a council – could lead the entrepreneurial development initiatives, and then bring on board all who were involved, like the Druk Holding and Investments, Tech Park, the department of cottage and small industry, among others.

An assessment of the success of the trainings that were provided so far had to be studied and researched and later monitored.

After the recommendations are finalised, it would be submitted to the government by September end.  The labour ministry was also assigned the task of organising the next meeting for the agencies.

This, participants said, was important “because after this workshop is over, everyone returns to their office and forgets what was discussed”.

Amid the interest-sparked discussions, a participant from BOiC said, “Bring an idea and we’ll help turn it into business,” in the context of how they would help support an innovative and promising idea, without a solid proposal.

If this is the spirit, the motto, of each of the 17 agencies, the private sector could be up for boom time.  But it takes more than words.  Lethargy is no stranger to Bhutanese.

Courtesy:kuenselonline

Jun 03, 2014    News    admin   1021 views   

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