If we can equip our CMSMEs with technological advancement, innovation and know-how today with necessary policy guidelines and reform, this crucial sector will implement future of our smart Bangladesh, said Barrister Md. Sameer Sattar, President of Dhaka Chamber of Commerce & Industry (DCCI) organized by DCCI on November 25, 2023.
He also said that it is high time to support the SMEs and make them digitally equipped to grab future opportunities. We all are aware that SME is instrumental in the economy of Bangladesh, making substantial contributions to employment, GDP and export earnings. As a whole, 9 million SMEs with 24.5 million workforces in diverse sectors from agriculture, manufacturing, trade and services to export-oriented sectors are recognized as the lifeline of the economy of Bangladesh. In order for technologically enabled smart SME development to accelerate the desired development, Barrister Sameer Sattar suggested for subsidies and easy access to finance for the SMEs, low-cost re-financing schemes for technology adoption, maximize adoption of FinTech, technology transfer, fiscal incentives like tax cut, rebate, rational tariff on innovation and technology to motive SMEs to turn into smart business, policies like Industry Policy, SME Policy, ICT Policy, Export Policy, National Budget and National ICT Policy 2018, National Digital Commerce Policy and relevant laws need to be synchronized for smart SME business friendly ambiance.
Md. Shamsul Arefin, Secretary, Information and Communication Technology Division, Government of Bangladesh was present as the chief guest while Md. Abul Kalam Azad, former Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister was present as special guest. Md. Mahbubor Rahman, Chairman, BSCIC was present as guest of honour.
Md. Shamsul Arefin, Secretary, Information and Communication Technology Division, Government of Bangladesh urged upon good governance and said that technology is the best way to ensure good governance. He also said that private sector gets the most benefits out of good governance as they can get easy and hassle free government services. He said that adequate data of SME sector is essential for taking data-driven decision by the government. He termed CMSME sector as the main player of economic growth in the country. If we can strengthen private sector technologically, they will move our economy into the next level, he added.
Md. Abul Kalam Azad, former Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister said private sector is the engine of growth and the CMSMEs play the vital role in this regard. Despite having various problems, our resilient SMEs are carrying the economy of the country forward. Later he said that there is no fear of embracing technology rather it’s a blessings of time and the more we can adopt technology, the faster we can achieve development.
Md. Mahbubor Rahman, Chairman, BSCIC said that countrywide, BSCIC has 85 offices and they have a refinancing scheme of 100 crore taka and out of it BSCIC gives loan to the SMEs at a rate of 5% interest. Since the CMSMEs cannot afford large plot in BSCIC industrial area that is why, BSCIC in its new policy allows small spaces to be allotted for CMSMEs, he informed. He agreed that skill development is a big challenge and for that BSCIC is working to train people through their training center in Uttara.
Md. Saifur Rahman, Managing Director, GBL Fintech Ltd. in his power point presentation said that in the entrepreneurship development and global innovation index, the position of Bangladesh is 84th and 105th respectively. He said that we have to improve in these two indices as soon as possible. Limited technology, lack of digital engagement, inadequate access to finance and skill development are few of the challenges for SMEs, he added. It is evitable that both public and private sector have come forward for the technological advancement of SMEs but it is not adequate, he opined. To facilitate SMEs to adopt technology, there are few challenges still we have higher tax, VAT and tariff, lack of technological know-how, lack of skills, high cost of investment in technology, issues of data privacy and cyber security and limited adoption of 4IR. Later he recommended for formulating policies for the transformation of SMEs to smart SMEs. He also added that easy access to finance for SMEs will help them come from informal sector to formal sector.
Ilmul Haque Sajib, Co-founder, Sheba Platform Limited said that technological support to the SMEs is now the demand of time. We need to build a trust regarding digital payment ecosystem, he added. It is heartening that Digital Banks are coming into operation soon; therefore micro SMEs with the help of proper collaboration will be able to reduce their cost of fund and cost of investment.
Dr. B. M. Mainul Hossain, Professor and Director, Institute of Information Technology, University of Dhaka said that we sometimes face difficulty to take data-driven decision due to lack of data. Maximum time the data we have got is very old. He also said that in many countries there is PayPal system but why don’t we have the same in Bangladesh, he added. He also reiterated to ensure necessary policy guidelines and as well as reform of policies. In the Mobile Financial Service (MFS) arena, Bangladesh is doing very well. He also later stressed on cross-border e-commerce facility to widen the e-commerce businesses.
Md. Mezbaul Haque, Executive Director, Bangladesh Bank urged to implement digital payment system across the country. “We have come to an era of digital lifestyle rollout”, he said. He moreover, said that we have a lot of technology in hand but we have limitations in real-time optimum utilization.
In the open discussion session, SME entrepreneurs present in the seminar said that the rate of interest for SME loan are bit high and the documentation process is also very complicated. Since, SMEs are taken care of by various ministries and government agencies, hence, the speakers demanded for a separate ministry dedicated only for SMEs. They all echoed with the concept of implementing complete automation of customs procedures.
DCCI Senior Vice President S M Golam Faruk Alamgir (Arman), Vice President Md. Junaed Ibna Ali were also present on the occasion. Coordinating Director, Convenor and Joint Convenor of DCCI ICT Standing Committee respectively Mamnun Quader, Rashad Kabir and Mir Shahrukh Islam also spoke on the occasion.