A beacon of hope for our economy
By Gary Marbaniang
Had it not been because of the insistence of my mother, sister and brothers, I would have left Shillong one month ago and I would have been working in a Micro, Small and Medium enterprise(MSME) office way down south by now. My decision was touch-and-go and in the end considering everything that’s going on in the world right now and the poor health of my ageing parents, I decided to stay back.
The MSME sector in India is like a sleeping giant. When it finally wakes up from its deep slumber, it will put India in a position where it aspires to be. The MSME sector in Meghalaya on the other hand has not even taken off yet; it is still trying to find its wings. This is the sad reality of the manufacturing sector in Meghalaya. Interestingly I read a news article where our current Chief Minister spoke about the importance of the MSME sector in augmenting economic growth and development in 2018.He said, and I quote, “The Micro,Small and Medium Enterprises(MSME) are not getting the required attention of investors, despite being the real drivers of the economy”.
I’m privileged to have struck a friendship with a woman who has the know-how, skill-set and who is tailor-made to be an entrepreneur and a torch bearer for the next generation. I’ve learned a lot from her. She knew what she wanted since she was in school. So as soon as she finished school, she decided to further polish her skill-set by pursuing a field of study that was in line with her ability and aspiration. Now she’s living her dream and she’s also providing a platform for other young people to follow their dreams. We need more independent thinking women like her in society. What made her realise her dream is also to a large degree due to the unwavering support of her parents. There are many equally talented people in our State but sadly for them, they don’t have the support system to stand on their own two feet because to begin a start-up or a business venture they need to take those first baby steps and someone needs to be there for them morally and financially in the initial stages, either in the form of parental support or governmental hand-holding. Unfortunately for most, the kind of support they need to spread their wings is found wanting.
The German economy should be a model economy for a small state like ours. According to the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy of Germany, the Small, Medium Enterprise(SME) in Germany known as “Mittelstand” contributes about half of the total economic output and almost 60 percent of the jobs. These are really impressive numbers. According to Statistica, there are more than 2.52 million Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) in Germany in 2018. About 99 percent of all firms in Germany belong to the SME sector. Most of them started out as family units and they have been around for generations. They specialise in a few products. This is what sets the German economy apart. Apprenticeship is provided by the SME sector itself and most of the young apprentices end up working for the enterprise that gives them the training when they’ve finally attained the necessary skill-sets. Approximately 82 percent of apprentices get their vocational training in an SME. German workers are well paid too, they work 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. Germany has carved a niche for its products in the international market. Most of its export products are generated from its vibrant and robust SME sector.
Like I mentioned earlier, most of the SME units in Germany started out as family units. Our tribal society where kinship is still strong can easily take a cue from the German SME model. Our traditional products are unique too. Our policy makers with the help of the Central Government can carve a niche for our traditional products in the international market.
Recently I saw a news item where the “jainsem,” the traditional attire for Khasi women, was displayed in a fashion show in London. There’s obviously an interest in our culture and traditional products in the international market and if we could give a platform for our entrepreneurs to showcase their products in the international market, then it bodes well for the future of the micro, small and medium enterprises in our State in particular and the manufacturing sector in general. The nature of our tribal society is tailor made for small and medium enterprises.
Last year when the pandemic started, the women in our family including my mother and my sisters out of the blue started making hand-made masks. They don’t have any formal training. Tailoring is a hobby for most Khasi women. One can only imagine the goods they’ll produce if most of them are given formal vocational training.
Our young people need governmental support and a platform to showcase their talents. My friend who I mentioned earlier is now giving an opportunity to other young people to hone their skill-set. Hopefully they’ll also do the same when they become masters of their crafts. From what I know, the State government is doing its bit to promote and support our talented young people but more needs to be done to tap the hidden talents of our youth. If we can create a multiplier effect in the MSME sector in our State, then the future looks bright for an otherwise bleak and struggling economy.
(The writer can be contacted at [email protected])