There was a time in Sri Lanka, when a considerable level of commitment was projected towards human development and especially when it came to the nation’s skilled and literate labour force. These attributes no doubt had set the country apart from our peers in the region. Over the years, Sri Lanka has witnessed steady growth in the economy alongside tremendous changes to the nation’s infrastructure among other things. Today, the nation is well-known around the world for our quality tea, apparels production and other export level goods which have been taking off since the 1970s.
Another aspect of what the nation has to offer towards our economic growth is the output that is evident through the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and entrepreneurs. When compared with blue chip companies and other strong conglomerates in Sri Lanka, SMEs play a major role in pushing our economy forward. These SMEs are also, mainly run through the efforts of ambitious entrepreneurs who hail from more rural parts of the country.
Unfortunately, Sri Lanka is facing her worst financial crisis and when it comes to economic stability for small and medium sector businesses in the country, it is these enterprises that are having to bear the brunt of it. With the inflation rate surging high gradually, we are now in the middle of an economic crisis that would take a while before it begins to improve. At the same time, we do need to stop for a moment and take in the reality that we would have easily moved forward if we had embraced and fully supported our very own home-grown enterprises.
With the issue of food also hanging in the balance, it is our farmers who require the needed support more than ever to enable them to produce crops for our consumption. Sri Lanka is facing unprecedented times and one that none of us thought would occur at such a fast pace. However, resilience is evident and there is much room for improvement if enough care and attention was projected towards the SME sector. Past economic data has indicated that the local ecosystem is geared on the strength of these rural entities. So, it is only right that moving forward and developing rural entrepreneurship is ideal in this day and age.
For the past few years, the world and Sri Lanka in particular has been exposed to a range of problems which eventually laid its effect onto our current economic situation. However, it is also essential that a strategy is designed in a way where a crisis management approach could be taken. Even though times are tough, with an open mind and creativity, the SME sector could bounce back a little and forge a path that could at least ensure a minimal level of improvement and resilience.
Importance of online platforms
One good example would be the steps that small business enterprises took when the covid-19 lockdown period came into effect not just in Sri Lanka but for a most part of the world. It was evident that many businesses that never really leveraged on the importance of online platforms eventually decided to become innovative in their business approaches and swiftly embraced social media apps and website portals to continue their businesses. Before C-19 struck, it has been reported that 79% of such businesses did not feel the need to be present virtually.
However, C-19 quickly influenced that notion. Once again, as our country has been plunged into the deep end with another economic crisis on our hands, it is vital that we continue to find ways to uplift the rural economy.
To continue bringing in that level of change, enabling their transition towards ecommerce platforms to do business would be beneficial. Such platforms should be made available to SMEs and entrepreneurs who wish to penetrate into the e-commerce space. SMEs would be enabled by way of promoting their products via an online portal and get to attract potential customers. On the other hand, such platforms would also offer them an incentive to feel empowered and focused on opening themselves up to global demand.
This also means learning the ropes on what steps would need to be taken if they were to create products in line with global standards whilst also gradually uplifting their businesses, employees and in turn, their communities as well.
However, rural entrepreneurs unfortunately have to go through various barriers just so that they can establish themselves enough to breakeven at some point. They lack essential technical skills, business management skills, enough capital to invest, and a reliable support system or network that would enable them further towards achieving their long-term goals.
Empower micro, home-based enterprises
State and Private Business Development Services (BDSs) can come across as a support system and ideal networking entities, whereby; entrepreneurs can also come together under one safe space and market themselves not just locally but globally as well. State and Private BDSs should focuses on their vision to eliminate poverty by empowering micro and home-based enterprises.
The main mission in this case, should be the ability to transform the idling population into a productive labour force through the empowerment of micro and home-based enterprises, to help secure a livelihood through the initiation of an efficient procurement process, create profitable national and international market spaces and offer necessary training and development facilities.
Other support systems that need to be considered come in the form of government intervention and their attention is also significant if rural entrepreneurs need to encourage to initiate their businesses and to be able to keep going without any bureaucratic hindrances that tend to occur now and then.
It is important that consistent systems are set in place where local chambers of commerce could reinforce marketing channels for rural entrepreneurs and conduct regular programs that would give these entrepreneurs a chance to expose their products to local customers by way of trade fairs for example.
Providing them with training on the dynamics behind quality standards and adding value to their products through the use of technical knowhow etc. At the same time, there are a number of issues that have been identified as instrumental in the generation of low profits by these rural entrepreneurs and it is mostly down to a level of incompetence that is quite prominent.
When incompetence is most commonly witnessed through a management entity’s side, technical side and entrepreneurial side, then it leads to various other issues that take place when the entrepreneur’s own personal take on things also occurs. This means that a lack of training on how to handle these elements is an issue and lends to a breakdown along the way. Other external factors also tend to form a part of these issues which, in turn, paves way towards poor productivity and eventually, lower profits. This is why training needs should be met in a timely fashion. Consistency is important if we wish to see this level of change not only being embraced but also carried on forward for generations to come.