By Prerna Mishra: Budgetary limitations, skilled labour crunch, technology adaptation and growing competition in market are the major challenges Indian SMEs are often faced with. Government's centralised focus on these areas and wooing industrialists to set up their units in remote rural and tribal areas is a need of the hour, says Rohit S Mehta, Immediate Past President of The Southern Gujarat Chamber of Commerce & Industry (SGCCI), Surat, in an exclusive interview with SME News.
Here are the excerpts from the interview.......
What is the role that your association seeks to play in the industry?
Rohit S Mehta: Surat is one of the most progressive cities of India. It has a very strong manufacturing base and the growth is driven by MSME's who constitute almost 95% of the industries activity. SGCCI has all along in its 71 years of existence, catered to the interests of MSME's and will continue to do so. SGCCI is the link between MSME's of South Gujarat and Government.
What is the current scenario of the trade and business among SMEs in Gujarat?
Rohit S Mehta: South Gujarat trade and business are facing challenges. The negative sentiments prevailing at the national and international level are having their toll at the local level. There is an air of uncertainty but we have gone through such situations in the past and we will do so once again this time.
What are the key challenges the Gujarat SMEs are currently facing?
Rohit S Mehta: Non availability and rate of finance, technology adaptation and competition in marketing are the major challenges. The rising dollar is disturbing the equations of even set businesses. Non availability of raw material at the right price is putting great pressure on all industries. Also non availability on skilled and unskilled labour is adding to their misery.
Are the available government policies helping the potential and established entrepreneurs to give fillip to their business?
Rohit S Mehta: Governments are keen to help industries and MSME's by declaring various pro-industries policies. However, they tend to remain only on paper and the benefits are not reaching entrepreneurs. Lack of awareness of these policies is an issue.
Lack of skilled manpower is considered as a key issue for the industry at the moment. What measures should be taken in this regard?
Rohit S Mehta: First of all NREGA is taking a heavy toll on the industry because of easy in availability of money with less effort in their home towns. Also there is a serious mismatch between the need of industry and available man power, with reference to their skills. A serious and rigourous vocational training campaign should be taken up to develop the right type of skilled men power. Also Government should encourage shifting of industries to remote rural and tribal areas to deconcentrate and decongest urban pockets and spread prosperity to rural and tribal areas.
What are the current projects being undertaken by your association for the upliftment of the small traders?
Rohit S Mehta: SGCCI undertakes training seminars and workshops on a regular basis to spread awareness of various government schemes and also update the knowledge of MSME's but our USP is in arranging various subject specific exhibitions for the benefit of Trade & Industry. We organize Udyog for Industry, Vyapar for Trade & Services, Fiber to Fashion for Textiles, Sparkle for Gem & Jewellery, Surat Auto Expo for Automobiles, Women Entrepreneur Exhibition (WEE) to give a platform to women, etc.
What according to you should be the focus area for the government to promote Gujarat SMEs?
Rohit S Mehta: The government should focus on skill development and availability of easy finance. The Centre should also invest in R&D and identify product, and market opportunities for the MSME's to encash because R&D is one area where the MSME's can not enter because of the prohibitive costs. The government should also identify and make available land at reasonable cost to MSME's because in spite of extreme competence, an entrepreneur can not set up a new enterprise by buying land at market price.
What is the importance of technology (ICT) for budding enterprises?
Rohit S Mehta: The best way to do business is to put systems in place. ICT helps entrepreneurs to do exactly that. With ICT they can keep a very good track of their outputs and performance and can take steps to change, alter or modify parameters of performance.
What is the outlook for the sector, especially SMEs, in the next 6 months?
Rohit S Mehta: As I have said earlier MSME's are facing challenges, but they will learn and grow. The next 6 months may be very crucial but if they sustain for this period or up to a year's time, the picture is very good.