A Tribute to the Potent Drivers of Economy
Kochi: The third edition of Destination Kerala SME Excellence Awards, a platform to honour those who made their mark in the SME sector of Kerala through their brilliant entrepreneurial and leadership skills, was held at Rotary Club Hall at Panampilly Nagar in Kochi on January 11.
Leaders from the banking, trade and industrial sectors apart from a host of dignitaries were present on the occasion of celebrating the scintillating success stories of SMEs, the unsung heroes of Kerala’s economic resurgence.
As in the previous editions of Destination Kerala SME Excellence Awards, this year’s 10 awardees have also been selected from 7 diverse industry sectors such as Garments, Furniture, General Engineering, Footwear, Ayurveda, Rubber & PVC, and Food Products. Two categories namely Coir and Jewellery do not have a winner this year. Special awards for two entrepreneurs were also given away on the occasion.
Though Premco Metal Industries, Perumbavoor and Odyssia, Kozhikode have been selected for the Destination Kerala SME Excellence Awards 2019 under the General Engineering and Footwear categories, respectively, they couldn’t make it to the awards ceremony.
C Balagopal, Founder-President, TiE Kerala; Vivek Krishna Govind, Senior Partner, Varma & Varma Chartered Accountants; Latha Parameswaran, Director, Kottaram Group, and P Damodaran Nair (MD) & S Syamala Nair (Chairperson), Viyyat Power were among the dignitaries who attended the ceremony.
Inaugurating the function, K V Haridas, Deputy Managing Director, Retail Business, State Bank of India said IT integration in the banking sector will ensure smooth last-mile connectivity and greatly benefit MSMEs.
Delivering a passionate speech on how the banking sector and entrepreneurship complement each other, he went on to highlight some of the latest entrepreneur-friendly finance plans introduced by the SBI. “A lot of initiatives are happening in favour of the MSME sector. The portal of ‘PSB Loan in 59 Minutes’ has been stabilised. From now on, business loan approvals will have a separate portal where select banks provide approvals. MSMEs applying for small business loans can get approval in less than a minute. Likewise, TReDS platform ensures easier finance flow for MSMEs through multiple industry majors (IMs). As IMs accept MSME receivables, banks could collect them from IMs without making any request to the MSME. The rest of the financial dealings happen between the IMs and the bank. The setup ensures seamless flow of funds.”
Haridas, the highest ranking Keralite in the SBI who takes care of 17 circles and handles SME, retail business, real estate and housing, agriculture, NRI and personal finances segments apart from customer value enhancement, has a portfolio worth Rs. 2 lakh crore.
He said the SBI has tied up with six NBFCs as part of RBI’s co-origination initiative, a co-lending business model with NBFCs. “Under the initiative introduced by the RBI in the wake of the liquidity crisis being faced by NBFCs, finance sourcing, monitoring and recovery will be handled by NBFCs. As a result, NBFC will keep 20 per cent portfolio and the rest will go to the SBI. That way, the 25 per cent interest they collect can be brought down to 15 per cent,” he said, adding, “SBI being the leader of the banking sector in the country, we are committed to bringing all banks under the spectrum to cover MSME in a big manner.”
Haridas said the focus of the banking sector at the time of his joining in 1984, particularly that of the SBI, was fast and efficient connectivity with customers. It still remains that way, he said. “The challenges are still the same even after 35 years, but a lot of innovations and initiatives are happening to bring down the turnaround time for all banking processes. The uneasiness in the past few years caused by demonetisation and GST has had a negative impact on MSMEs. The corporate stress, in turn, has affected the balance sheets of banks. Only NBFCs have progressed as they got funds and liabilities on short term and assets on long term. Even banks have put money in NBFCs. But once the short-term tap was closed, the whole system suffered. Preventing the collapse, State Banks stepped in and provided them direct finance depending on asset rating. The pools of lower ranking companies were bought by SBI, thereby bailing out the NBFCs.”
Since the global crisis is real and no one is aware of the ramifications of the disruptions, focus should not be on the global market at least for the moment, cautioned Haridas. “Instead, focus on domestic markets, bring in more activities, put more money into hands of the public so that they start purchasing. Moreover, ensure more government expenditure so that a lot of money flows into the system and comes back to all the industries, facilitating domestic growth,” he added.
Observing that MSMEs have failed to receive due recognition, Haridas said that amendments to the MSMED Act, that was expected to have happened over a decade ago, would not have much of an impact if implemented now. “Any opportunity would vanish in 10 years. With Nitin Gadkari, Union Minister for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, at the helm, some positive developments are bound to happen,” he said. Expressing hope that some revolutionary announcements in favour of MSMEs will be there in the February budget, he said he is pinning hope on distress funds to ensure best practices in the field.
Underscoring the need to streamline the process, he promised that in less than a month more customer-friendly initiatives would be launched, “The problems involving turnaround time would be addressed. The new system will ensure that tracking will be done by the customer. When sanction on a proposal gets delayed, clarification needs to be given. To bring down complaints on ATMs and service quality, a separate entity will be entrusted with the charge of handling the ATMs so that for any complaint, penalty can be imposed on the concerned agency. The aim is to avoid as much manual intervention as possible and instead focus on digital methods for instant loan sanction and disbursal, unless there’s mortgage involved.”
MSMEs, he said, can’t sit on the laurels of their past achievements. They have to evolve, introduce new value system, management styles, use technology and always stay relevant to the customer,” Haridas said.
Delivering the presidential address on the occasion, M Khalid, State President of Kerala State Small Industries Association (KSSIA) said, “Kerala has the most favourable climate for entrepreneurs and labourers.”
Hailing the “worker-friendly and business-friendly” development model implemented by the Kerala Government, which, according to him, is changing the State into a fertile ground for entrepreneurship, Khalid said, “In the past three four years, there has not been a single instance of labour unrest in Kerala. The State Government gives great attention to maintaining cordial management-employee relations. The government ensures that there is no delay in granting licences, and non-compliance on the part of local self-government institutions in this regard is being dealt with strictly. The procedures like land allotment process have been simplified and the overall situation is favourable to investors who adhere to rules and regulations.”
He said as someone who has been an industrialist since 1982, he is glad about the changes being brought about in the State. “Kerala’s small and medium-scale industries contribute substantially to the exports and generate huge employment opportunities. That itself is a matter of pride,” Khalid said.
Delivering the keynote address at the event, Sheela Kochouseph, President, WEN Kerala chapter, expressed excitement over more women venturing into business these days. Recollecting her early years as an entrepreneur, she said, “When I started business in 1995, people kept asking me if I was crazy to do business when I was living in luxury. I grew up in a traditional family as the 11th of 12 children and my mother believed that everyone should earn and be independent. From a shy woman, who didn’t know how and what to talk when you meet different people, I have grown into a confident person. I learned to face everything with positivity, understand new things and convert any crisis into an opportunity.”
“Women who live in the confines of their homes and kitchen have talents. If unused, those talents will turn rusty. Try to identify it and make the move,” Sheela said underscoring the need for more women to come forward and act.
Deepak L Aswani, Co-chair, FICCI Kerala State Council, who also delivered the keynote address, noted that Kerala is an excellent exporter of manpower and an ideal turf for MSMEs, the trigger of Indian industry. “The government is trying its best to help entrepreneurs come up, but it’s up to the entrepreneurs to decide how to go about it. Kerala has a highly skilled labour pool, rich infrastructure and is the highest exporter of manpower, but today we lack the self-sufficiency that we had in the past,” he pointed out.
He said most of our imports are unnecessary items. “Instead of importing junk, we have to produce here whatever we want. Then logistics cost will come down and productivity will increase, and if industrial clusters work together to meet our own demand, small-scale industries will flourish in Kerala. The same is the case with migration, too. People go out looking for better jobs, but we have all the favourable circumstances here and we just need to put in a little hard work. It’s high time reverse migration started and Keralites who went abroad in search of better pay began coming back for a better future for our State and ourselves,” Deepak Aswani said.
Sumix Kids Wear, Malappuram; Dr. K P Beena Murali, Proprietor
Wood/Cane/Plywood/Furniture/Handicrafts/Bamboo: Exotic World Furniture, Malappuram;
M K Abduhaji, Proprietor
General Engineering/Electrical & Electronics: Premco Metal Industries, Perumbavoor; N P Raju, MD
Footwear & Leather: ODYSSIA, Kozhikode; T C Joseph, Proprietor
K P Namboodiris, Thrissur; K P Bhavadasan, MD
Rubber & PVC: Kelachandra Polymers, Kottayam;
C T Thomas, Partner
Food Processing/Fruits Processing/Rice Mills: Saico Curry Powder, Kozhikode; Moideen Koya, Director
Special Category Award: Popular Industries (Popular Candles), Ernakulam; Sheeba Babu, Sherly Jose, Jee Joy and Liny Baiju, Directors
Special Category Award: Yemvees Prosthetics Centre, Trivandrum; Varghese Babu, Proprietor