By Seine Yumnam
What number would you say if I asked: “how many dukans (small retail shops) do you see once you step out of your house” and “how many women are selling vegetables in the Ima market?” Most people in Manipur support their family through their small businesses – don’t we have a lot of retail shops selling pens, books, petrol, tobacco, toiletries? Yes we do. Those people who run those retails are all ENTREPRENEURS; they are taking the risk and competing against one another. Even the women in the Ima market are, to a certain extent, running their own business of vegetables and traditional clothes. Given the number of entrepreneurs we have in Manipur, it is shocking to see the status quo of the economy. Stagnant, declining, diminishing, recession, no growth, unemployment – these are the few words that I can relate our economy to and they all have negative connotations. Aren’t we supposed to have growth and greater employment with greater number of entrepreneurs? If so, what are we missing in Manipur?
It is true that we have always had political and social issues that have dampened the growth of the economy and overall prosperity. In such scenario business may not have been very rewarding and as a result, people may not have had the incentive to build a successful business. However, things are changing under the new central government, and it is clearly seen by the new sports university coming up and the newly established accessibility to Myanmar region. My projections over the next 3-5 years would be that Manipur will be a lot safer and settled than it is right now. We will have a new environment, an environment that will, hopefully, be business friendly. When this happens, how likely is it that we will have the same/greater number of entrepreneurs who do not create jobs and fasten the growth of the economy?
It all depends on what kinds of entrepreneurs we have. The answer to the last question I mentioned in the first paragraph would be that we don’t have A LOT OF productive entrepreneurs. Most entrepreneurs we have are unproductive and destructive ones.
Years of political misguidance and trauma have created a mind-set among our people that make us believe, almost intrinsically, that there is no place for long-term/sustainable growth. Most people have only looked for a quick profit and quick spending. The idea of ‘get it now, spend it now, and not worry about the future because you never know if you will die tomorrow or not’ has gotten venomous in our society. Most entrepreneurs we have think like this and do not have the growth mind-set.
There is no way that a retail bookstore can be differentiated from another bookstore. Entrepreneurs run their business for the sake of running and selling something while not looking for opportunities to expand their business. The only way to grow a business is to understand the needs of the costumers and deliverthem. We need our entrepreneurs to conduct deeper research on consumer needs and not buy a bunch of books and put it in the shelves without thinking how to sell it in such a way that people keep coming and his/her business continues to grow successfully. If the business is not growing, it is not capable of employing people, if there is no employment, there is no spending, and consequently the business fails. It is a simple transitive cycle that we all need to understand. These are the businesses of the unproductive entrepreneurs.
Another kind of entrepreneur we have is the destructive one, thosewho promise too much and deliver too little. Weak regulations in Manipur have enabled a lot of rent-seeking and tax evasion by many business people through mere connections. This amounts to wastage of a lot of resources and unfair treatment of people. No wonder there is a clearly defined and visible line between the rich and the poor. Such entrepreneurs fill their pocket in an illegitimate manner and leave nothing for the rest.
Such are the kinds of entrepreneurs we have always had over the past few years or so, but the rules of the game are changing and the allocation of entrepreneurs also ought to change – we need more entrepreneurs in the productive basket. They are the ones who can create values that will resonate for years in Manipur. Think about how Bimola Devi has changed the life of more than 500 people. She trained numerous people and helped them get financially independent while building a successful business for herself. She is the living example of a productive entrepreneur. If we had 10 Bimola Devi, we will have 5000 skilled and financially independent workers, we if had 100, we will have 50,000. It is important to recall how Bimola Devi expanded his business – she took a loan of Rs. One Lakh. Modi has already created 1.5 crore banks accounts in India. Financial inclusivity and accessibility is on its way. Very soon we will have access to small-business loans. In addition to this, we will have the permission to conduct international trade with our neighbouring South-East Asian countries. We need to prepare for this new wave. We need to realize that we are not going to continue experiencing the same kind of socio-economic scenario, and we need to respond to this changing environment.The role of All Manipur Entrepreneurs’ Association is even more important than it was ever before.
Expansive.Growth.Creative. Productive. Legitimate. Let’s build something that can be described by these words.