The first ever Business Today-YES Bank SME Awards honoured the achievements of India’s small and medium scale enterprises - some of whom are doing things differently and some, well, are doing different things.
Frankly, even some of us at Business Today were a bit skeptical about the response at the first ever Business Today-YES Bank SME Awards ceremony. These initiatives, after all, take time to build up their brand value and equity. But these were doubts that vanished as the evening of July 9 gathered momentum, leaving barely standing room as guests spilled over into the buffet service area, making it challenging for the hotel staff to serve the food.
The venue, of course, was the Kamal Mahal at ITC Maurya, Delhi, and the function got under way as soon as the Minster for Commerce and Industry Anand Sharma arrived at the appointed hour—8:00 p.m.—and he was welcomed by Aroon Purie, Editor-in-Chief, India Today Group, Rana Kapoor, Founder, MD& CEO, YES Bank and Rohit Saran, Editor, Business Today.
If there was any nervous energy, it soon dissipated as the event began with clockwork precision. While events like these are normally used as networking opportunities, the BT-YES Bank SME Awards Ceremony was an attempt to put the spotlight firmly on a hitherto ignored sector of the economy. The names of the winners, which had been selected by an eminent jury earlier, were kept confidential till the time of the ceremony, only adding to the drama.
Aroon Purie highlighted the contribution made by SME entrepreneurs in terms of innovations. SMEs, as he rightly pointed out, are an extension of the entrepreneur’s personality and as such, their survival is closely intertwined with the ability of the entrepreneur to improvise. “In India being an entrepreneur has its own excitement and challenges—some of you may call it frustrations. Till recently it would take the patience of a saint and perseverance of a camel to be an entrepreneur in India,” he quipped.
As Purie rightly pointed out, many of India Inc.’s stalwarts of today were in fact SMEs when they started off. “Dhirubhai Ambani started with a firm call ‘Majin’ located in a 350-sq. ft room. M.S. Oberoi started from a small Clarke Hotel in Shimla. Jamsetji Tata started with a small trading firm. So, the question is not whether you are small, but whether you are smart. A smart business will grow however small it may be. A business that has ceased to be smart, will go extinct, no matter how big it may be,” he pointed out.
Accepting the award, Vinayak Chatterjee, winner of Star SME CEO, said: “I think the longest journey in the world begins with the smallest first step. I run a company that participates in the infrastructure sector and the fact that sector is also getting recognised after many years of India’s Independence is extremely heartening.” Echoing the upbeat mood at the event, Mehul Patel, winner of Star SME, said: “There is a huge potential for Indian SMEs to become global in the future.”
“TAPPING ENTREPRENEURIAL COMPETITIVENESS”
We have 42 million people working in the SME sector—that’s more than the population of many countries. They build institutions and provide leadership. Forty per cent of our industrial growth comes from this sector and 40 per cent of India’s exports are from SMEs. Many of these industries are also labour intensive.
This is a challenging time given what’s happening in the world for which we are not directly responsible, but victims we all are. The economic downturn has definitely hurt economies across continents. We live in a world which is interconnected and interdependent. We have left behind those times when we were insulated.
We have to remember that globalisation brings with it opportunities and challenges. It has opened new markets, provided access to our industries, our manufacturers and now even our service sector. But there is also increased competitiveness as entrepreneurs from other countries are also testing boundaries.
They are also competing, which is always healthy. But what we see today is a temporary phase. We hope there will be a turnaround soon. We in the government realised that during difficult times we have to ensure that our industry, particularly SMEs, are not overwhelmed by the economic downturn and given all support and incentives.
The decisions of the government may be adequate for many and not adequate for some, but yes, it has helped in stopping the downward slide, particularly in exports. It’s not that they have gone up as they have been going down since October. In the last three months, the figures indicate that surely the worst appears to be over. We are still negative when it comes to export growth, but it may be 6-7 per cent less than what it was three months before.
We have to dream big, only then can we reach where we aspire to be. Truly, those who are present in this room, many of you achievers, you have that in you. You have that faith, you have that confidence, you have creative minds and you have the commitment, not only in your field in which you are, you have the commitment to the country.
I wish you well.