Dalit entrepreneurship is on the rise, as three key indicators show. While Dalit trade bodies attribute the rise to aspiration and an enabling environment, economists feel this indicates inclusiveness and the emergence of new growth potential.

These indicators include enrolment as members with the Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DICCI) and growing shares of schedule castes (SCs) and schedule tribes (STs) in stand-up schemes and refinanced loans under MUDRA scheme accounts.

Enrollment as a member in DICCI has gone up to 13,000 from the pre-pandemic level of 10,000. According to the website of DICCI, any company or firm promoted by SC/ST entrepreneurs in India or abroad with a majority stake holding above 51 per cent is eligible to become a member of the chamber. Confirming the number, the Founder Chairman of DICCI, Miind Kamble, told businessline that, based on 2011 census data, there are 19 crore SC/ST youth who are aspirational and ambitious.

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Three Ms

“An enabling ecosystem of the three M’s — money, market access, and mentoring — is in place to help and support these youths, and the result is in front of everyone,” he said adding that the funding issue is now not very challenging. In terms of market access, the Public Procurement Policy for Micro and Small Enterprises (MSEs) has been a big support. Under this scheme, 25 per cent of total procurement needs to be sourced from MSE by ministries and PSUs, and out of this, 4 per cent needs to be done from SC/ST-owned MSE. Data from the MSME Ministry shows that in 2022–2023, procurement with a value of over Rs 1300 crore was sourced from 8,828 SC/ST-owned MSEs.

In terms of nurturing and mentoring, SC youths selected under the Ambedkar Social Innovation and Incubation Mission (ASIIM) are supported by Technology Business Incubators (TBIs) in various higher educational institutions. Each of them gets a fund of ₹30 lakh over 3 years. The successful venture qualifies for venture funding of up to ₹15 crore from the Venture Capital Fund for SCs. Now, Kamble, who is also the Chairman of IIM Jammu, has high hopes from the Business Accelerator Program, designed by the institute for existing SC-ST entrepreneurs and their wards (aspiring entrepreneurs). “With support from IIM A, B, C, and L, it is turning out to be a big mentoring initiative,” he said.

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The Stand-Up Scheme, launched in 2016 and extended until 2025, aims to promote entrepreneurship among women, SC, and ST categories through access to loans between ₹10 lakh and 1 crore from bank branches of all Scheduled Commercial Banks. As on March 21, out of 1.80 cr loan accounts, around 36 crore were for SCs and STs. These accounts were sanctioned for over 7,500 crore. Mudra, launched in 2015 to refinance colleteral free credit up to ₹10 lakh for small businesses, has recorded over 40.8 crore accounts with sanction of ₹23.2 lakh crore as on March 24, 2023. About 23 per cent of accounts belong to entrepreneurs of SC/ST categories. categories.

Commenting on the overall direction of all the initiatives, Prof. MK Agrawal, Head, Department of Economics, Lucknow University, said all these aim to generate new growth potential in the economy for sustainable and wide-based growth in India. “The scheduled caste and tribe people and others have now shown their economic imperatives in terms of pent-up demand for loans from schemes like MUDRA, Stand-Up, etc. Since these are being done at a rapid pace through big push strategies, the externalities are being generated rapidly,” he said.