“Micro, small and medium size enterprises play a significant role in the economic growth and development of countries. Within ASEAN, MSMEs account for more than 96% of all enterprises, between 52% and 97% of domestic employment and 23% to 58% of the GDP, as well as 10% to 30% of exports. Sustainable economic growth and job creation will therefore rely on competitive and robust SMEs. While regional partnerships present opportunities, these also present potential threats as they increase competition for MSMEs which must have the ability to adapt to rapidly changing market demand, technological change and capacity constraints relating to knowledge, innovation and creativity”, saidMr. George Barcelon, President, Philippine Chamber of Commerce (Philippines) at a panel discussion on ‘India-ASEAN Partnership: Building Regional Network to promote SMEs and Women’s Empowerment’ organized by Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India and All India Association of Industries at the Delhi Dialougue IX. The event was inaugurated by Hon’ble Minister Smt. Sushma Swaraj commemorating the 25th anniversary of India – ASEAN relationship at New Delhi.

Mr. Barcelon further added that catalyzing women’s entrepreneurial talent can have a significant impact on advancing women's economic empowerment which will help mitigate poverty and will also contribute to socio-economic growth of the region.

Photo Caption (L to R): Mr. Johny Chotrani as Chairman, Philippines India Business Council, Mr. George Barcelon, President, Philippine Chamber of Commerce (Philippines), Mr. Vijay Kalantri, President, All India Association of Industries and Vice Chairman, World Trade Center Mumbai and H.E. (Mrs.) Ma. Teresita C. Daza, Ambassador, Embassy of Philippines in India

Mr. Johny Chotrani, Chairman, Philippine Chamber of Commerce (Philippines) said, “In the Philippines, the MSME sector is seen as a critical driver the country's economic growth. There are 900,914 business enterprises operating in Philippines, of which the total number of MSMEs 89.9% (806,609) are micro enterprises. MSMEs sector serves as supplier and subcontractor to large enterprises and forms a strategic component of the export value chain. Making SME manufacturers internationally competitive is a major challenge that Philippines and India face, especially in the light of rising globalization and increasing economic integration not only in the ASEAN but also in the East Asian region. With the new era of digitization, new avenues are finally being created for SMEs in being able to tap into resources that were previously unavailable. Of these, innovation in fintech sector has a large potential if properly tapped, the peer-to-peer lending which has seen an intense growth over the last two years as it has the ability to make a real difference in the financial inclusion space, that will change the game for SMEs and its constrains with financial backing and support, added Mr.Chotrani.

Speaking on enhancing the participation of women entrepreneurs (in ASEAN and India) in the Global Value Chain, Mr Benny Y. P. Siahaan, Director, Directorate for ASEAN External Cooperation, MOFA (Indonesia) said, besides the government efforts in providing easy access to funding, resources, technology and training women entrepreneurs themselves can play a key role by forming a support network which will facilitate exchange of knowledge and experience, develop and propose initiative to promote economic and trade activities in order to enhance gender equality. It will also empower and strengthen entrepreneurship skills with capacity building which will help in creating favorable environment for women led enterprises and support women entrepreneurship in the region opined, Mr. Benny.

Ms. Roslina Chai, Chief Learning officer, Gnowbe (Singapore) said, “Ability to communicate and articulate well is very important to connect and for capacity building. At the individual level of every single entrepreneur, especially in India and ASEAN countries, improved English language proficiency is the key to build strong connectivity and confidence for enhancing the participation of SMEs in the global value chain. She further said that, Gnowbe offers e-learning solutions to enterprises across the globe for training their human resources, further it has the capacity to transform the meaning of productivity with its real-time sharing functions by unleashing the power of tacit knowledge inherent in each individual. Setting bilateral industrial channels, sectoral and industrial based strategies along with formation of incubators which have specific focus will help to raise performance of women entrepreneurs and SMEs in global scenario.

Highlighting the need for SMEs to become economically and financially viable, Mr. Hemant Mishr, CEO, Asia Cap Investment Advisors Private Ltd., emphasized that SMEs should focus on setting up business at various incubators, business park or SEZ while borrowing at competitive rate. They must explore the available export opportunities in various countries and initiate partnerships with various companies including PSUs for supplying their products which will benefit the SMEs in the long run. Expand less on fixed cost and use new age technologies i.e. instead of buying server, use cloud space offered by various companies like Amazon, Microsoft opined Mr. Mishr. He also stressed that for enhancing the competitiveness of SMEs the capacity of financial institutions must be increased to construct profitability lending programmes, while prioritizing the development of innovative solutions to collateral issues such as the acceptance of more flexible forms, few fixed assets, use of group guarantees and loan guarantee scheme for them. He further added that, “more emphasis on cash flow than balance sheets in assessment of borrowing capacity, easy and effective loan application assessment methodologies needs to be implemented. Business support system must be strengthened through an intermediary role, by building capacities in business services, both public and private. Developing an SME-FDI linkage offer based on the 'fit-to-supply' principle for improving the flow of information and to display supplying opportunities of the potential local suppliers to the MNC purchaser will help in the growth of SMEs in India”.

Earlier in his opening remarks, moderator for the panel discussion, Mr. Vijay Kalantri, President, All India Association of Industries and Vice Chairman, World Trade Center Mumbai said, “SMEs in India contribute 45% to its GDP and are integral part of the ASEAN and India economy. SMEs have contributed significantly in terms of employment, exports, entrepreneurial activity and economic empowerment and played an essential role in economic success of ASEAN countries as well as India. Increasing SME cross border activities across the region will help in boosting the economic growth and development and will further increase their competitiveness. Women entrepreneurs who form an important part of SME sector face economic, social and cultural obstacles such as finance, legal issues and societal pressures which need to be timely addressed by the government and policy making agencies, asserting that the current government is actively undertaking a number of initiatives to boost the SMEs and Women Entrepreneurs”.

On this occasion, World Trade Center Mumbai and All India Association of Industries signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Phillipine Chamber of Commerce to further strengthen the economic and trade relations between both the countries.

The session was well attended by high profile dignitaries, diplomats from various countries and business leaders from India and ASEAN.

Photo Caption (L to R): Mr. Benny Y.P. Siahaan, Director, Directorate for ASEAN External Cooperation, MOFA, (Indonesia), Mr. Hemant Mishr, CEO, Asia Cap Investment Advisors Private Ltd, (India), Mr. George Barcelon, President, Philippine Chamber of Commerce, (Philippines), Mr. Vijay Kalantri, President, All India Association of Industries and Vice Chairman, World Trade Center Mumbai Ms. Roslina Chai, Chief Learning Officer, Gnowbe,(Singapore) and Mr. Johny Chotrani as Chairman, Philippines India Business Council