Notwithstanding the enthusiasm amongst the entrepreneurs and the significant progress made in the field of small scale industries, the pace of industrialisation in Mizoram has been rather sluggish due to many persistent adverse factors, among which, lack of organisational structure, poor infrastructural facilities like communication and power, inadequate market knowledge and access are prominent.
Paucity of ready source for financing fresh businesses also hinders growth in this sector. The Economic Survey of Mizoram for 2015-16 indicates that the total number of industrial units registered each year has shown a generally declining trend from 594 in 2007-08 to 169 in 2015-16. Interestingly, in terms of flow of investment and generation of employment, their contribution has been high and rising for the same period.
Among these units, service sector such as healthcare, hotels etc. are having higher investment and employment as compared to manufacturing sector. It is, therefore, imperative to adopt a holistic approach for creating a conducive business environment and motivate the spirit of entrepreneurship in the State. Under the aegis of NEDP, the Entrepreneurship Development Scheme (EDS) has been formulated with the objective of imparting to the people the skills necessary to prepare them to start their own venture and provide them with institutional and knowledge-based support to successfully run their business. One of the key ingredients of the scheme is the Micro Startup Capital Competition which, as the nomenclature suggests, aims to provide micro funding to potential and promising start-up ventures through an unbiased competitive selection process. Mizoram is witnessing an emergence of a young business class with sharp entrepreneurial acumen with a drive for success.
Not only do these potential contributors to the economy need to be encouraged and supported, the spirit of entrepreneurship needs to be promoted further especially among the youth of the State. To this end, the Micro Startup Capital Competition or “Mizoram Rahbi” initiative seeks to provide a ‘stepping stone’ (which is what ‘rahbi’ means in the Mizo language) for emerging and early stage entrepreneurs who are yet to gain traction through grant of micro capital. This assistance will be administered through a fair contest wherein business startup plan proposals will be judged by an unbiased panel of experts to assist sincere enterprises that will potentially in turn contributes to the economic development of the State.
The cascading effect of forward and backward linkages of these ventures is also expected to generate significant direct and indirect employment. As risk taking is an integral part of entrepreneurship and risk free investment almost never succeeds, the winners will be expected to match fund required for their business plan that is over and above the grant amount (which is a sum not exceeding Rs 5 lakh or half the estimate of the business plan, whichever is lower) or through bank loan. It is of great importance to note that the overarching objective of this initiative, besides financial assistance to turn ideas into action, is to spread awareness on entrepreneurship among the masses in general and to promote it among the youth in particular through open Competition.
The initiative goes further by putting in place a mechanism for monitoring the progress of the ventures funded under it, provides institutional and knowledge-based support and scrutinises whether the fund granted is being utilised properly. The Micro Startup Capital Competition will be open to all residents of Mizoram who have recently started or wish to start an innovative business venture within Mizoram. The main focus group, however, will be the younger demography of the indigenous Mizo workforce.
The Micro Startup Capital Competition initiative will work in tandem with other initiatives under NEDP in general and EDS in particular which include administrative reforms in Ease of Doing Business, strengthening of infrastructure development for entrepreneurs and farmers, preparation of entrepreneurship manual, setting up of entrepreneurship knowledge centre for providing handholding support services and data bank, conducting need-based entrepreneurship and skill development programme, conducting exposure trips for potential entrepreneurs, tie-up with Mizoram University Incubation Centre, IIM Calcutta Innovation Park, etc.
The first Micro Start-Up Capital Competition was organised where all the participants were carefully observed and their proposals were wisely examined by expert members. After several rounds of competition and grooming sessions, there were 15 winners in this competition. All these winners are continuously monitored and fund was released in two installments based on their business outcome.
The winners of first Micro Start Up Competition have been successfully carrying out their individual businesses in their own fields. The second Micro Start Up Capital Competition was launched on 7th December, 2017. The Competition had 94 contestants with unique business proposals. This alone highlights the headway made in the promotion of entrepreneurship in the State since the days of the first competition. Three rounds of judging and a boot camp later we have 20 promising winners who will further the entrepreneurial spirit in the State.
(Views expressed in this article are of Isak lalmuanpuia Chuaungo, Research Officer, Planning & Programme Implementation Department, Government of Mizoram)