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OP-ED: Entrepreneurship and SMEs are more important than ever

  • Published at 12:21 pm August 12th, 2020
idea entrepreneur
Photo: Bigstock

It is well established how important, resourceful, and impact-generating for the economy they are

As the whole world collectively is trying to fight Covid-19, intense, devastating, and perhaps irreversible losses are being incurred by the small and medium business enterprises and by entrepreneurs who, for example, just got their products from the prototype stage before getting into the market.

Now, as countries are competing for finding the vaccine that can save us all, days and nights aren’t stagnant. SME and small time entrepreneurs are undergoing significant detrimental effects from which it will be difficult to recover, even with the lucrative packages the government and other international enterprises (through the government) are providing.

However, there is a common factor here. Due to prolonged periods of shutdown in the world, people from all walks of life -- from the prodigious and the wealthy to the hawker who sells fruits on the streets -- are being affected financially. Exactly here comes the “strain factor,” a variable of the legal world that connects economic status to crime. The financial deterioration a rich person is facing is nothing in comparison to the hawker, or the low-level employee.

It is well established how important, resourceful, and impact-generating for the economy SMEs are. They not only provide products to the customer, but also aid the economy by generating employment for a significant chunk of the population. Keeping this paramount urgency in mind, the government and private sector did come up with a stimulus package for SMEs to survive this brutal shakedown.

Surprisingly, entrepreneurship, the very idea of what an entrepreneur is and what he/she does, is yet at its infancy. In reality, the country has successfully produced “outsourcing robots” who outsource their services -- which can not be put under the definition of entrepreneurship. An entrepreneur doesn’t run an established business; rather starts with an idea which might work or fails (most of the cases). 

When the idea works, they go for making their service/products and do market surveys to check if the market needs what he/she or their start-up is trying to provide. The main challenge an entrepreneur faces in the obscure dark road ahead is financing. 

Numerous times, it has been uttered that imitation isn’t innovation, and what isn’t innovation isn’t entrepreneurship. Opening up a French restaurant in California, or a new burger shop in Dhanmondi, is no way entrepreneurship. And picking up the phone to answer some written script to provide call-centre service for a developed country isn’t entrepreneurship either. 

So, it is logical to deduce that the experts of Bangladesh lack in-depth knowledge about what actually is entrepreneurship, for there is no “rigid definition” of it either. Perhaps two friends sitting in their bedroom building a robot to help collect samples or data about something, say in this case, the affected patients, are on their way to innovate something. 

And if their idea succeeds and can be scaled up and financed appropriately, will they be able to call themselves entrepreneurs? In normal time, millions of ideas -- good and bad -- end up in the graveyard. Then, try to think in this “new normal” time, how abnormal it is when Bangladesh has to send its people to learn how to cultivate potatoes in an effective manner by spending a fortune.

The enormous number of zoom meetings and talk-shows about creating leaders and innovators has wasted capital -- real-time money with zero impact. The aftermath, when everything returns to normal, will be catastrophic for those who want to be entrepreneurs, given there is no coordinated stimulus package for the entrepreneurs of the country. 

It is never possible realistically for one start-up in a country like Bangladesh to fight against the big “corporation mafia” to bring their dream into reality without properly raising awareness, and teaching and advising people on the differences between business and entrepreneurship. 

Not everyone becomes Zuckerberg or Bill Gates -- most fail due to many reasons. It is perplexing that a2i, ICT division, PMO start-up funding division etc are all being manipulated by people who didn’t provide a single logical, workable, and effective route which the thousands of entrepreneurs -- from the little girl of a village stitching her dream by making some new products to the complex robot makers -- should follow. There is no stimulus package for solely the entrepreneurs who were perhaps some small steps away from being called an SME prior to this tragic year. 

The deeper the night, the closer the dawn; the darker the night gets, light gets closer to appear. It is time for the stakeholders to think, think deeply during the darkness about the future of both the SMEs and entrepreneurs. Especially, the stakeholders should research, learn, and strategize about how they plan to provide the entrepreneurs with additional support that they need to keep their dream afloat. 

It is paramount to remember that entrepreneurs are the ones who, when mentored, supported, and provided with the proper resources, can cause an intense positive turnaround of the economy, for their idea was never there before in the market. These visionaries’ ideas must be protected at all cost. 

Anwar Shadat Jihan is Founder and Owner, Midwest Engineering Solution Limited Company LLC, and an Aerospace Engineering Consultant based in Wichita, Kansas, USA.

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