Monday, September 20, 2021

Support entrepreneurship

There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that our state of fers boundless opportunities in agriculture, horticulture, food, clothing, tourism, handicrafts, and other untapped resources. And it is also true that fostering entrepreneurship here has been a challenge for decades. Most avenues have not been leveraged to their full potential due to socioeconomic factors as well as too many taxes from different groups. This has resulted in the state’s struggle to gain economic strength in the face of prevailing unemployment. We are all aware that our state needs a sustainable solution to strengthen its economic base, which can only come from growth at grass roots level. It is a sad state of affair that at a time when industrial development is being touted as means to provide a much-needed boost to the local economy, young entrepreneurs here are dealing with a lack of support and unfavourable circumstances. Our youths, amidst all the challenges, have been displaying entrepreneurial zeal and taking strides towards progress. Fostering innovative mindset, increasing interest in entrepreneurship is often a catalyst that drives development objectives including growth, employment and equity. For entrepreneurs to successfully contribute to the society, however, they need vital resources such as funding, mentoring, human capital of a growth mindset, suitable infrastructure, and supportive government policies, which unfortunately is lacking. Majority of our population is employed by the government. And promoting business at micro, small, and medium levels could nudge economic activity and enhance the skills and potential of the youth whose employment options today are limited. Owing to the tough situation, the government should take steps towards furthering up-skilling and training of the workforce and preparing them ahead of time. As stated, entrepreneurs and small businesses, despite having the potential to provide solutions to various socioeconomic problems, are today struggling to succeed. The problem is multi-fold. The educated youth from universities prefer a government job over exploring entrepreneurial opportunities. Due to the absence of an ambitious entrepreneurial class with an outward looking approach, the youth has only a few examples to motivate themselves to outgrow the dogma of ‘job-security’ and take entrepreneurship as a serious career option. The lack of expertise and innovation of technology that is vital for the formation of any product or service a business can capitalize on also contributes to the situation. Challenges such as lack of adequate infrastructure in terms of power, transportation, regular interruptions in internet and communication channels further impact existing businesses massively, resulting in a direct blow to their revenue. The geography of the state also makes it difficult for major industrial development to happen, and frequent policy changes due to unstable governments also adds to the overall difficulties faced by entrepreneurs and small businesses. And here focused and consistent support from the government alongside an instituted structure to foster entrepreneurship can help address challenges and provide our economy the boost it needs. Perhaps the state can look at creating a support framework for entrepreneurs by coming out with a startup policy to give financial assistance to entrepreneurs, as well as provisions for availing loan, etc. But such initiatives should also look beyond urban areas, where most government policies are always concentrated. We need to incubate startups and small businesses in the rural areas as well. In the past, similar approaches have been effective in giving a boost to the local economy. It should also be remembered that while creating a support framework for entrepreneurs is vital to cultivate a startup ecosystem, it is equally important to pay close attention to the development of skills of the youth in the state. Training aspiring entrepreneurs and providing trainees with financial support, and loan on concessional interest rates, etc are also vital. The point is that our state is rich in culture and has valuable resources. It has massive potential to benefit from various industries, including agriculture, tourism, apparel, and handicraft. However, the growth will only hasten when backed by governmental policies to foster entrepreneurship in the state and a strong support mechanism including mentorship, financial, and technological assistance. It is time the government takes strategic steps to create an investor-friendly environment, infrastructure for logistical issues, and developmental framework to foster entrepreneurship and uplift our economy in a sustainable manner.