The second edition of the Business Today-YES Bank SME Awards ceremony was an eagerly-awaited event after the success of last year's show. There was a slight autumn nip in the air as the guests started gathering in the Ballroom of The Grand, New Delhi. The event began on the dot, with the arrival of the Chief Guest, Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Kamal Nath.
After Chaitanya Kalbag, Editor of Business Today, set the ball rolling, Aroon Purie, Editor-in-Chief, India Today Group, pointed out that there is nothing small or medium about the SME sector. "The sector accounts for nearly half of India's manufacturing, 40 per cent of exports and eight per cent of its GDP. About 26 million SMEs provide employment to over 60 million people," he noted. The enterprise and drive shown by the SMEs has been one of the most important factors of India's economic growth.
Purie said the sector, despite having to struggle for finances and credibility and deal with red tape, antiquated laws and bad infrastructure, has done an outstanding job and will play an important role as India aspires to become the world's thirdbiggest economy.
Echoing Purie, Rana Kapoor, Founder and Managing Director and CEO of YES Bank, said the responses to the SME contest had gone up significantly to over 60,000 this year from around 10,000 last year. "We are expecting a higher participation next year. Our target is to get at least 1.5 lakh applications," he said.
mosimageRecognising the SMEs as the backbone of the economy, Nath said the growth of the sector in the last 40 years highlights the entrepreneurial abilities of the people. "In the SME sector, we have seen the unleashing of entrepreneurship," he said.
The minister said if there was one factor that distinguished the countries worst hit by the recession from those that were relatively unaffected, it was the state of their SME sector. "The US is still struggling because their SMEs were affected and they are not recovering. Even in Europe, the SMEs are in great trouble. So the SMEs represent the index of economic health of a country. In India, the SMEs have shown an infinite capacity to adopt and adapt and that's why they were able to survive," he said.
Nath said the challenge is not just to sustain growth but to take it to all parts of the country. "The SMEs have a huge role to play. They will have to look towards new ideas, change their own bandwidth, transform themselves and find ways to stimulate the future," he said.
The country faces the biggest deficit in infrastructure. "We need better road connectivity to the ports and airports. The turnaround time in our ports as compared to Hong Kong is 5-6 times more," Nath said. These factors burden the SMEs with extra costs. On his target of building 20 km of roads every day or 7,000 km a year, he said: "To be able to achieve 7,000 km of roads, we need to have 20,000 km of work in progress." Globalisation means global competitiveness, he said. "If you are not competitive, you are not generating enough economic activities," he said.
The 13 winners had their moment in the sun as they went up to take their trophies from the minister, and gave snapshots of their stories. Their diversity was amazing. If Dr Tonmoy Das of Assam Hospitals struck success early, V.K. Singh of Camson had to slog for almost seven years before hitting pay dirt. For some, better returns mean an expansion. For B. Haribabu of Bhagavathi Ana Labs, the money matters only if he can build a hostel to care for mentally disadvantaged children, since not all parents can afford such care.
Malcolm D. Mistry, Publishing Director, India Today Group, proposed the vote of thanks. The awards process was validated by Grant Thornton, the liquor sponsor for the function was United Spirits Ltd, and the hospitality partner The Grand, New Delhi. The TV media partner was Bloomberg UTV.