Problems Being Faced by SMEs in India
(An Attempt to Study MSME Segment Minutely)


By
Prof. H.L. Nagaraja Murthy
Assistant Professor
Bharati Vidyapeeth University-IMR
A-4 Paschim Vihar (E) New Rohtak Road New Delhi-110088
 


Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) contribute to economic development in various ways such as creating employment opportunities for rural and urban population, providing goods & services at affordable costs by offering innovative solutions and sustainable development to the economy as a whole. SMEs in India face a number of problems - absence of adequate and timely banking finance, non-availability of suitable technology, ineffective marketing due to limited resources and non availability of skilled manpower.

Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) play an important role in the development of a country. There are around 26 million MSME units in India, of which 13 million are SMEs. SMEs contribute nearly 45% share of manufactured output, accounting for 40% in overall exports of the country and providing employment to about 32 million people.

The performance of SMEs in India though impressive comes next to China where this sector provides employment to 94 million people with a network of 37 million units.

India has registered a high economic growth (6-9%) consistently over the last one decade. For the sustainability of this kind of growth proper nurturing of SME sector is imperative. The need of the hour is to empower the SME Sector so that it is able to take its rightful place as the growth engine of the economy.

The paper throws light on various challenges being faced by SMEs in India at present and tries to find solutions to these problems, so that the SMEs become more vibrant and are able to make forays to new un-chartered areas such as infrastructure etc.

Finance Minister has proposed to provide Rs. 5,000 crore to SIDBI for refinancing incremental lending by banks to SMEs out of the shortfall of banks on priority sector lending targets. In view of the problems being faced by handloom weavers, inability to repay debts to handloom weaver cooperative societies which have become financially unviable, FM has proposed to provide Rs. 3,000 crore to NABARD. The initiative is expected to benefit 15,000 cooperative societies and about 3 lakh handloom weavers. These efforts could not bring a lot cheer to the sector as many concerns still remain.

Though additional Rs. 1000 crore to SIDBI may help address priority sector lending concerns, but it does not stand anywhere near sufficient. This is because borrowing costs still remain high for the sector. Farming did see some relief in terms of lower interest rates on loans. SME is the foremost employment generating sector and has a significant contribution in Indian GDP. Currently, unavailability of funds plagues the growth of many SMEs and at the same time loans rates faced by them are as high as 16% and above, which affects investment decisions.

The budget proposes to move the service tax from cash basis to accrual basis. This implies that businesses will have to pay tax for the money that they have not received yet, due to which liquidity will become an issue.

Another important concern is that of rising input costs. This is affecting the competitiveness of SME products in domestic as well as international market. Also, it is difficult for SMEs to pass on the extra cost to consumers due to which their margins decline, making production unviable. FM did address the issue by trying to control inflation. The only problem here is that it is a very gradual process, not going to happen immediately.

Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are often confronted with problems that is uncommon to the larger companies and multi-national corporations.  These problems include the following:

Lack of IT Support

IT personnel are in high demand and are often attracted to bigger companies and MNCs.  It is very difficult for SMEs to attract good IT personnel.  It is even more difficult to retain them.  Moreover, good IT personnel are expensive and may not be affordable by most SMEs.

Lack of IT Literacy

Many of the employees in SMEs started from the ground up after working with the company for many years.  Some of them are often holding supervisory and managerial positions. These employees may not be IT literate and often have high resistance to the changes in the working process that they are comfortable with after many years.

Lack of Formal Procedure and Discipline

Most SMEs do not have formal procedure or often these are not documented.  Furthermore, there is tendency for these procedures to change frequently.  This makes it difficult for third party and newcomer to understand the existing business practices and match them with the IT process.

Uneven IT Awareness and Management Skill

As company grows, new managers are often introduced into the company.  There will also be old managers who are promoted from the rank and file.  Some of these managers may not been trained in the leadership and management skill.  These uneven skill among the managers often caused conflicts during the implementation.

Lack of Financial Resources

As a SME/SMI, financial resources are often limited.  This often forces company to select a solution, which appear to be cheap initially.  However, the hidden costs will start to emerge during implementation.  This sometime causes the project to be abandoned or sometime sent the company into further financial crisis.

Lack of Human Resources

Implementations of some bigger scale IT project especially those that involve business process across different departments or require large amount of initial data entries require human resource during the implementation.  Some SMEs are often in the stage of frequent fire fighting and shortage of manpower.  This makes it very difficult for them to allocate time to carry out implementation.  Furthermore, there is always a conflict between getting the daily routing work going and to do the "Extra" IT implementation.

Lack of Experience of Using Consultants

A good consultant often save time and effort, and help to prevent pitfalls during the IT projects.  However, most SMEs are lacked of experience in working with consultants.  The lack of knowledge in the field of IT makes them difficult in identifying good consultant for the projects.  They often feel that the consultant costs is too high and they can handle it with their own staff.  If the company has no staff that are experience and knowledgeable in t he IT project, avoiding external help often costs more to the company eventually.

Small and Medium Enterprises significantly contribute to industrial, economic, technological and regional developments in all economies, developed and developing, though the definitions of SMEs may vary (Agarwal 2005). In India, it is estimated that there are over 1.4 million small industries, out of which about 30 per cent may relate to manufacturing. SSI sector account for about forty percent of total industrial production, thirty five to forty percent of total exports and a significant share in employment (close to 2.5 million) and close to 8% of GDP. However SMEs or SSI sector (now called as micro, small and medium enterprises, MSMEs) are going through a transition phase including restructuring of strategies and facilities since the announcement of new policies in 1991 and thereafter progressive adoption of liberalised and globalising policies in India. We will however continue to use 'SME' nomenclature as it is more popular, and widely accepted.

SMEs need to be vitalised for competitiveness and sustainable growth under new world trade rules and faster technological changes, including wider use of ICT, besides new business models. Several initiatives have been taken by the government from time to time to promote and support MSMEs, including new support measures, financing mechanisms, and gradual de-reservation of items for production. Innovations and technologies are becoming more crucial for competitiveness and sustainability of SMEs, in the emerging international trade regime. MSMEs (or SMEs) need to adopt internationlisation strategies in tune with objectives and strategies and global supply chain management of transnational corporations (TNCs) or large companies. Some of the recent initiatives, key issues and best practices evolved worldwide to vitalize and internationalise SMEs, particularly from technology point of view have been discussed in this paper.

It draws lessons from the studies carried out by the author recently in 2005-06 for UNESCAP, after a desk research and field surveys and visits to SME related organisations in select four developing countries in Asia Pacific region.(The National Manufacturing competitive Council, 2006). This study report was also discussed in an UNESCAP international workshop held at Seoul, South Korea, in Jan. 2006, (Agarwal 2006,a) in which about thirty countries and international agencies participated. The findings were further presented in another seminar at Seoul in March 2006 and a workshop at Beijing, republic of China, in Oct. 2006 (Agarwal2006,b,c). Prevailing technology capability building measures and national manufacturing strategy recently announced in India have also been discussed, and some suggestions made to internationalize to improve competitiveness of SMEs in India.

It is hypothesized in this paper that vitalization and internationalization of select SMEs is necessary in developing countries such as India, and technological inputs and support is a prerequisite for their growth and competitiveness; along with a comprehensive policy framework, implementation mechanisms and built evaluation systems.

MEASURES TAKEN BY GOVERNMENT OF INDIA

Ministry of Small Scale Industries is primarily responsible for promotion and development of SMEs in India, and has evolved several policies, institutional and support measures, spread all over the country, in order to enable SMEs to meet their changing needs. Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) has developed various financing schemes. Ministry of Science and Technology (DST, DBT, DSIR) has evolved several measures and programmes for technological assistance and development and transfer of technologies for SMEs. Some of the economic ministries such as Ministry of Textiles, Department of Food Processing and Department of Handicrafts etc. have also recently announced initiatives for technical assistance in various firms.(DCSSI 2006)

Some of the measures and new initiatives to promote SMEs include:

SME development fund

  • A specialized stock exchange for SMEs
  • Encouragement for patenting and ISO Certification
  • SME venture capital fund
  • National Commission for Small Industries (informal sectors)
  • SME development bill
  • Credit Rating Agency
  • Promoting special venture capital companies and risk financing ______companies for SMEs
  • Improve the working of credit guarantee and export promotion institutions
  • Progressively reduce protection measures and simplify implementation policies and control mechanisms
  • SME Development Centres at SIDBI and IIFT
  • Considering liberalizing FDI in SMEs and encouraging their linkages with TNCs and large companies
  • Promoting industrial growth centres/clusters, EOUs, district industry centres, business incubators and business parks
  • Market assistance and export promotion
  • National Small Industries Corporation
  • Small Industries Development Organization
  • Limited Liability Partnership Bill 2006

The National Strategy for Manufacturing has recognized the need for a focused project on advance technology products and has recommended the constitution of a special group to study the potential for manufacture and export of such products. It has also recommended the establishment of technology parks around institutions of higher technological learning on the lines of those existing in USA. Another important recommendation relates to setting up a "Global Technology Acquisition Fund" to enable Indian industry to acquire very high technology intensive companies abroad. (National Manufacturing Competitiveness Council, 2006)

The strategy suggests a cluster approach for improving the manufacturing competence. New and innovative approach to cluster development should be adopted. Further, small scale sector should be encouraged as breeding ground of innovation and technology development where it becomes the technology sources for large companies. Towards this, government must incentivize technology development in SMEs to enhance their competitiveness. A National Manufacturing Competitiveness Programme (NMCP) is being developed which includes objectives to support SMEs. A Design Clinic approach is suggested to bring Indian manufacturing sector and design expertise on to a common platform and to provide expert advice and cost effective solution, resulting in continuous improvement and value addition for existing products. Emphasis is also laid down to enable SMEs to be competitive through quality management standards and quality technology tools. These are only some of the strategies among those suggested in the Report.

NMCC seems to have prepared Rs. 1,000 crore National Manufacturing Competitiveness Programme for small and medium enterprises jointly with Ministry of Small Scale Industries. This aims to benefit over 10,000 firms in more than 500 SME Clusters. The thrust of the plan is towards technology infusion. The areas for support include "lean" manufacturing, ICT, technology and quality up gradation, increasing number of tool rooms, encouraging patents and so on.( Economic Times 2005). National Knowledge Commission has also identified SMEs as a thrust sector for education, skills upgradation, training and ICT encouragement. Various studies have shown that ICT and technology levels are higher in internationalized SMEs in sectors such as food processing, auto components, ICT, leather, to engineering, garments etc. Compared to non-exporting or domestic SMEs.( Agarwal 2005, 1b)

Academic and R&D Organizations

Some of the engineering and technical institutions such as IITs, National Institutes of Technology and CSIR Research Laboratories, are also providing R&D and technology related support facilities and services to the SMEs including training and skill development programs. However, access to these facilities are generally not easy, and often lack the business needs of entrepreneurs. There are very limited start-up enterprises based on technologies or intellectual property from academic and R&D institutions. Ministry of Small Industries and Development Commissioner, have a wide network of technical, design, training, pro-type development, testing etc., facilities all over the country spread up to district levels. But, these facilities need to be modernized and tuned to emerging needs.

Foreign Tie Ups and FDI

Internationalization of SMEs usually refers to the SMEs engaged in international businesses, have developed cooperation, partnerships, linkages and networks with foreign companies and institutions. Imports and exports tend to enhance the efficiencies, capabilities, competitiveness and vision of SMEs. FDI is considered to be an important channel for internationalization, besides catalyzing technology flows and investments. Most countries are aiming at attracting larger FDI which poses challenges and provide opportunities to SMEs. The domestic policies therefore need to be finely tuned to take full advantage of FDI and international aid/support measures or loans. However, the SMEs need to be growth oriented and forward looking, with innovative capacities, for internationalization.

A survey of over 8000 SMEs in Europe in 2003 revealed that internationalization spurs growth and competitiveness (http://ec.europa.eu). The foreign supply relationships are the most common forms of internationalization while exporting is the next and some establish foreign subsidies and branches. Access to know-how is a frequent motive for going abroad.

The study has interestly revealed that smaller countries with small domestic markets are more internationalized. Further the study point to three elements as crucial for developing holistic measures with regard to internationalization.

SMEs' managers often have limited time and management skills. A policy measure should consider providing some practical tasks to support the manager, especially in the case of SMEs with low international experience.

Studies indicate that SMEs often need specific, targeted support. Such 'customized' support comprises, for instance, assistance in identifying an appropriate foreign business partner for a joint venture or collaboration. Moreover, recent studies indicate that SMEs' awareness of support measures is low due to the measures' traditional focus on export activities. The studies suggest that policy measures, in order to be effective, need to focus on the experience of the entrepreneur and on developing his/her qualifications in a broad sense.

Internationalization is more than just exporting. Policy measures, whether general or company-specific, need to encompass all the different approaches to internationalization and the support to include a wide range of international activities.

Foreign partnerships, foreign investments and cross boarder clustering represent new viable ways to strengthen the international business strategies of SMEs. Such diverse international activities may integrate different business functions (i.e. R&D, production and marketing) and thus involve elements across the entire value chain.

Most developing countries have adopted or are adopting a liberalized FDI regime in various sectors of development, though the degree of liberalization may vary. In case of SMEs, several countries have opened up to 100% FDI while in some it is restricted, say up to 24% in India, in general. Limited studies are available (UNCTAD 1998) related to FDI flows to SMEs, especially in developing countries. A study of technology financing through FDI, for SMEs in India and other select countries, (Agarwal, 2005) was carried out in 2004-05 at IIFT, based on the FDI approvals of the government. This study indicated that FDI approvals for SMEs accounted for about 6.0% of total approvals while the amounts were about 2% of the total amount approval. One can infer that FDI approvals were mainly perhaps intended to internationalize markets and technologies rather than investments. The extent of amounts and the number of approvals vary from sector to sector.

Discussions

A quick analysis of various studies and data indicates that SMEs are going through a transition phase and are generally restructuring their strategies and capabilities to remain competitive and grow in the emerging world trade environment. The government are also evolving policies, strategies and modes of implementation to encourage and support SMEs for their growth, capacity building and international competitiveness. The issues and strategies vary with the level of development and priorities in national economies. Some of the countries such as Republic of Korea, Singapore and Taiwan have been able to adopt and implement new policies and measures to promote and support SMEs more successfully than many other countries. Innovation, technology, productivity and quality, though inter-related, are assuming greater significance for competitiveness in manufacturing and businesses. Foreign Direct Investments (FDI), networking and technical tie ups are being encouraged to facilitate access to newer technologies, strengthening technological and management capabilities, and access to market information. Creation of training and skill up gradation facilities, ICT applications, and sharing of risks in financing and development, are the thrust areas.

In India, effective implementation of policies and delivery of results to the satisfaction of the SMEs, remain much below than desired, though there are a large number of institutional mechanisms and support measures available and concerns shown by the government. There is a need to critically review the existing policies and mechanisms, to assess the constraints and gaps in delivering the desired outputs. For example, there are overlapping agencies and programmes for development of technologies and technological assistance to the SMEs, but the SMEs continue to be weak in R&D, technology development, acquisition and induction of new technologies, productivity and quality among other factors. The technology support programmes are largely implemented from Delhi or the capitals of the states and the awareness about programmes and fiscal incentives available is limited among SMEs.

Proposals of NMCC are praiseworthy, but the implementation mechanisms are not clear, and also the focused targets likely to be achieved. Hopefully these proposals will not be just an addition to the existing set of support measures, without effective monitoring and assessment mechanisms for the intended results. What is needed perhaps is a strong innovation & technology development policy with legal instruments for implementation, clearly meeting the needs of SMEs at different stages of their development. National Knowledge Commission has been generally active in evolving strategies for education and skill up gradation, and employment or entrepreneurship opportunities in ICT and other areas. Digital divide has been an area of concern but at the same time offers opportunities for SMEs. National Small Industries Commission is engaged in evolving policy instruments and mechanisms to utilize and support SMEs.

Most SMEs, need easier access to new or modern technologies abroad, technology support facilities and easier access to finance, including technology finance, besides marketing information and incentives for training and skills development. Further, differentiated policies and mechanisms are needed for SMEs in different sectors, stages of their development, nature of operations. For example, the technological needs of SMEs in traditional sectors such as food processing, leather textiles, toys etc. would be different than those in new and advanced technological areas such as micro-electricals, pharma, precision instruments and so on. Perhaps, there is a need to have short term and long term strategies for enhancing competitiveness of SMEs in one broad based strategy. The R&D expenditure and technological capacities of most of the SMEs would continue to be limited because of their inherent constraints in the resources and vision. The support structures should recognize this fact. However, the SMEs have enormous potential for innovations and incremental development, which need to be nurtured for production of new goods and services at competitive costs.

The IT and auto-component SMEs are examples of the successes through innovations. Such policies should lead to wider dispersal of economic benefits, capacity building, and utilization of resources, creating employment, etc. across the society. Economic, education, trade, technology and society need to be interdependent. The SMEs development project should recognize the needs of internationalizing companies or those who have the potential to internationalize, differently than those of domestic oriented companies or stagnating companies. The analysis of FDI data for SMEs in India tend to show that some SMEs are internationalizing or willing to internationalize through various types of collaborations through FDI route since the amounts involved are small.

In the context of WTO and other emerging trade mechanisms including Regional Trade Agreements(RTAs), Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) and bilateral or special economic cooperation agreements, the technological preparedness of SMEs need to be studied and support mechanisms evolved to overcome the gaps or constraints being faced or likely to be faced by them in the international businesses. In view of the wide variations in definitions of SMEs in various economies, the harmonization of definition of SMEs in India, with those in developed or advanced developing countries would facilitate international assistance for technology transfer, development and evolving measures for enhancing competitiveness in export markets. Preparedness of SMEs for WTO is still another issue. Innovations and trade agreements are likely to be the thrust areas in near future.

What are the chief constraints faced by the SMEs sector in India?

The major constraint faced by SMEs in India is "Power" i.e.  

* Man Power , 
* Electric Power
* Money Power
* Purchasing Power
* Political Power   

It is all a game of power. There is no skilled manpower to work. Manpower shortage is the bigger issue for those SMEs which have matured and willing to grow. 

Manpower in numbers is not a problem. The biggest problem faced by SMEs is skilled manpower welder, fitter, and machinist. Despite being skilled, they have problems of attitude and lack motivation and the right mindset.

The middle level management is the problem. The single man keeps running here and there. Whether we make a pen or an aero plane, the activities are same, only the magnitude / volume changes. Same we have to start from identifying the product, then developing it (engineering) and sale of the product. There are 14 functions to be done the in the manufacturing organization. 

We see 3Ps constraints comprising People (skilled manpower), Power (electricity) and Paisa (credit).

The start-up entrepreneurs need venture capital. Since the risk involved in very high, many have put their own private capital. It is not the investment in infrastructure or buying machine, it is the working capital also. The capital is required to run the organization. Now with banking loan services it is becoming easy to get loan, but repayment is another issue since marketing is too weak.

To market any commodity we need a brand name which is difficulty to get in the beginning. There are not enough funds to invest in brand building

The biggest problem faced by SMEs is the right team and skilled manpower. We can borrow money from other country or bank and agency but we cannot borrow the skills from outside. Another problem the SMEs face is failure to visualize and effect the change. 

STEPS TAKEN RECENTLY:

The Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) sector contributes significantly to manufacturing output, employment and exports of the country. It is estimated that in terms of value, the sector accounts for about 45 % of the manufacturing output and 40% of total exports of the country. The sector is estimated to employ about 69 million persons in over 26 million units throughout the country. There are over 6000 products ranging from traditional to high-tech items which are being manufactured by MSMEs in their ranging from traditional to high-tech items, which are being manufactured by MSMEs in the country. It is well known that MSME sector provides maximum opportunities for both self employment and jobs outside agriculture sector. The inclusiveness of the sector is underlined by the fact that nearly 50% of the MSMEs are owned by disadvantaged groups of the society.

To make this sector to become more vibrant and significant player in development of the Indian economy the Government of India has taken various initiatives. The definition and coverage of the MSME sector was broadened MSME Development Act 2006 which recognized concept of 'enterprise' to include both manufacturing and service sector besides defining medium enterprises setting up a Board for developing policy frameworks and indicating procurement policy.

A task force was constituted to identify issues that are inhibiting the economy development and growth of the MSME sector. Sequel to this about 80 recommendations were made to unshackle the Indian MSME sector. While most of the recommendations have already been implemented there are some specific issues related to policy and government support needs immediate attention.

CONCLUSION:

Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) contribute to economic development in various ways such as creating employment opportunities for rural and urban population, providing goods & services at affordable costs by offering innovative solutions and sustainable development to the economy as a whole. SMEs in India face a number of problems - absence of adequate and timely banking finance, non-availability of suitable technology, ineffective marketing due to limited resources and non availability of skilled manpower.

Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) play an important role in the development of a country. There are around 26 million MSME units in India, of which 13 million are SMEs. SMEs contribute nearly 45% share of manufactured output, accounting for 40% in overall exports of the country and providing employment to about 32 million people.

The Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) sector contributes significantly to manufacturing output, employment and exports of the country. It is estimated that in terms of value, the sector accounts for about 45 % of the manufacturing output and 40% of total exports of the country.

To make this sector to become more vibrant and significant player in development of the Indian economy the Government of India has taken various initiatives. The definition and coverage of the MSME sector was broadened MSME Development Act 2006 which recognized concept of 'enterprise' to include both manufacturing and service sector besides defining medium enterprises setting up a Board for developing policy frameworks and indicating procurement policy.

References

1. Agarwal, S.P.(2005); Report on 'Strategy for Enhancing Competitiveness of SMEs Based on Technology Capacity Building' for UN Economic And Social Commission For Asia And Pacific (ESCAP), Bangkok, November

2. Agarwal, S.P.(2006a); UNESCAP Regional Consultative Meeting on NIS/SIS, Seoul, RoK, 18th-20 th January

3. Agarwal,S.P.(2006a);Strategy for Enhancing Competitiveness of SMEs Based on Technology Capacity Building; UNESCAP International Workshop/Consultative Meeting,Seoul, RoK,March

4. Agarwal,S.P(2006b); An Innovative Policy Framework for Technology Capacity Building of SMEs; UNESCAP SIS Workshop, Beijing, China, October

5. http://ec.europa.eu

6. Agarwal,S.P(2006c);Technology Capacity Building of SMEs;Leveraging International Networks and Resources; UNESCAP SIS Workshop, Kathmandu, Nepal, December

7. (2006);The National Manufacturing Competitiveness Council The National Strategy for Manufacturing, New Delhi, March

8. (2006); The Economic Times, 2006 13 July

9. Agarwal,S.P.(2005);FDI in SMEs in India; International Conference for Development and Revitalisation of SMEs in China, DMU, China, 14th July

10. UNCTAD(1998);Handbook on Foreign Direct Investment by SMEs Lessons from Asia

11. DSIR(2002) Foreign Collaborations in India

12. Agarwal,S.P. and P. Shrivastava(2005b); EDECAD Report on 'E-Status in SMEs in India', IIFT

13. (2006)Annual Report 2005-06, DCSSI, New Delhi
 

                                                                                                                                                                               

   Published on IndianFaculty.com: 14/04/2012

 Source: E-mail 13/04/2012

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