M. Ramesh

Chennai, April 26

WHEN the curtains fell on the Second Commonwealth-India Small Business Competitiveness Programme, delegates from the 35-odd countries who participated in the five-day meet had a lot to take home.

The 72 members were drawn from bureaucracy, industry associations and industry (a third from each) and the most tangible outcome of the meet was the networking at the enterprise level, says Mr Ram Venuprasad, Adviser (Enterprise), Special Advisory Services Division, Commonwealth Secretariat.

The networking is expected to pave the way for business deals. A senior official from the Government of Namibia has expressed interest in sourcing products from the Chennai-based Super Auto Forge Ltd, a Rs 120-crore company which the Commonwealth team visited.

Delegates from Sri Lanka have evinced interest in buying hammocks from Inca Hammock Manufacturing & Export (P) Ltd, a Rs 23-crore small-scale unit in Chennai, which supplies directly to Wal-Mart, among other leading retailers in the West. The visitor from Fiji, too, has asked if his company could represent Inca in his country.

The team visited the Kuthambakkam village of Tiruvallur district, near Chennai. The village panchayat has pioneered a model of development in which the villagers make use of local resources to produce a range of products such as groundnut oil and soaps. The concept of self-help groups is at play. Brig Akhtar Zamin, Principal Secretary to the Governor of Sindh, Pakistan, was among those who were impressed with the Kuthambakkam model. Brig Zamin told Business Line that he would push for replicating the model in Pakistan.

At the meet, three formal agreements were signed, two of them between the Caribbean Association of Industry and Commerce and the National Small Industries Corporation, Delhi, and the Exim Bank of India. The third was between the Ministry of Small and Rural Industries, Government of Sri Lanka and Tanstia-FNF. Tanstia-FNF is a collaborative venture between the Tamil Nadu Small and Tiny Industries Association and the Friedrich-Neumann Foundation of Germany, to provide training, marketing and escort services to small and tiny enterprises.

These agreements basically pledge co-operation in small and medium business development and speak of sharing of knowledge and resources.

The meet was a good example of South-South co-operation, observes Mr Venuprasad, who co-ordinated the whole programme from the Commonwealth Secretariat side.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated April 27, 2005)
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