|Published : 21 Apr 2017, 20:00:20|
Microcredit for rural entrepreneurs
The joyous atmosphere, accompanied with lots of ceremonial festivities, in which small entrepreneurs are honoured these days in the capital has become a part of the nation's economic culture. It underscores a lofty goal -- patronising spirited entrepreneurship. This is essentially an urban spectacle. Set against it, the undaunted rural entrepreneurs in most cases remain unsung, except for isolated media exposures. Their ventures do not belong to the category of the institutionalised small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Beginning generally from scratch, these micro-level entrepreneurs finally make their presence felt through journeys marked by back-breaking labour, perseverance, bouts of disappointments and uncertainties. Many of them make pitiful exits being unable to face up to the harsh realities. A lot of others stubbornly remain stuck to their mission. Braving the scores of evidently present and hidden challenges, they do not give up. These struggling people are found comprising a remarkable segment of the purely self-made rural entrepreneurs.
The tale of a commercial set-up manufacturing different types of brushes in a remote village typically speaks of some youths' desperate, and also innovative, struggle for a dignified survival. Following a long risk-filled journey, they have proved their mettle in entrepreneurship. Ironically, all of them once worked for such brush factories in Dhaka. Coming back to their village, and upon setting up their own ventures, they now employ rural people in their brush-making units. Women constitute a large segment of these workers. Lately, these micro-level entrepreneurs are up against unhealthy competition. Their big institutional clients are being weaned away by smuggled foreign-made brushes, particularly from China, Taiwan and a number of other Asian countries. The new policy of these domestic buyers to go for foreign products despite their higher price has caught them unaware. The clients point to the better-finished quality of those foreign items, a fact the brush manufacturers dismiss right away. As they maintain, if given adequate financial incentives, they too can produce quality items with costlier raw materials.
The dire straits in which the brush manufacturers have been thrust into is not unique. The hazard characterises many other such petty rural enterprises. Engaged in a desperate struggle for survival over a period, they wind up business to end up financially broken. All this speaks of the awful absence of protective financial shields that can help the grassroots business entities grow smoothly. Perhaps, it is the non-formal nature of these ventures, with no strong state endorsement, which stand in the way of their desired flourishes.
Periodic surveys conducted on village youths find them to be hardworking, dedicated and innovative. Many of them are drawn to commercial ventures on being prompted by an urge to be self-reliant. This particular factor is seen at play behind the rural women's willingness to start ventures indoors. That stimulus in the form of bank loans, microcredit to be precise, at a minimal rate of interest, for these entrepreneurs can go a long way towards helping them find a firm footing cannot be disputed. Myriad ventures ranging from producing vegetables, rearing poultry to making trinkets, toys etc., can be made eligible to government 'micro-loans', which is different from the formal microcredit programme.