India's Solopreneurs Must Also Become Job Creators For Rebuilding The Economy
Solopreneur', a term that has the power to change the lives of many people in the country as these are individuals who run their own enterprise or solo businesses. While the term solopreneur might be a new coinage, it is not a new phenomenon by any standards. Millions of Indians run solo enterprises across the country. Often referred to as the `self-employed', they run these small businesses on their own, sometimes supported by family members or friends. From the neighborhood man who runs a tailoring centre with the help of his son to a nondescript woman running a food catering business alone from her home, examples of self-run businesses abound. It is estimated that almost half of India's workforce is self-employed in some ways. While a majority of them (almost 60 percent) are employed in agricultural farms, others run small enterprises in trade, manufacturing, transport and storage. Importantly, a majority of them are subsistence entrepreneurs!
India's Self-Employed Solopreneurs
According to the Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) of 2017-18, an estimated 70 percent of the self-employed in India were own account workers or individuals who run their enterprises without hiring any employee. As many as 26 percent of the self-employed were found in the Survey to be helpers assisting family enterprises without getting any regular salary or income. Just 4 percent of the self-employed category individuals were those who employed others. Moreover, a majority of these solo businesses earn very small revenues. Interestingly, a large number of such businesses are run by women who try to augment their household incomes by indulging in business activity on a small level. This data tells us how there lies a huge hidden potential of generating employment and more income in the Indian economy if thousands of these self-run enterprises could scale up and grow.
Making business skill training accessible to all is a critical element of boosting entrepreneurial spirit and capacity
As India struggles to rebuild its COVID-hit economy, these `solopreneurs' offer a major hope and possibility. By crafting a policy framework that helps such self-run enterprises to scale up and grow into job-creators, India can achieve significant growth in terms of both GDP and employment generation. Even if 10 percent of the current own account workers can be enabled to scale up their businesses, it can result in creation of thousands of new jobs.
Enabling Solopreneurs to Scale Up Businesses
As the economy witnesses a major slump in the aftermath of coronavirus crisis, sector after sector is witnessing a bloodbath and job losses have become rampant. Boosting entrepreneurship along with ease of starting, doing and scaling up businesses is critical in this situation. The national unemployment rate stood at 8.21 percent in the last week of July. The country badly needs more entrepreneurs to establish and run productive enterprises and generate employment avenues. Enabling Solopreneurs to scale up businesses is therefore an important requirement of the time!
Enabling Easy Credit and Microfinance
For small businesses and self-employed individuals, availability of credit to scale up and grow their businesses has been a major challenge. In the absence of collateral guarantees, a steady and regular income as well as absence of credit history, accessing loans from banking institutions is difficult even though a series of banking and non-banking financial institutions offer loans for the self-employed. To access credit from traditional financial institutions is also a lengthy process involving a lot of documentation. The information requirements include business documents, bank statements etc. apart from one to one interviews with institution officials. For unregistered small businesses and subsistence entrepreneurs, meeting such documentation requirements is often a challenge.
Apart from making access to credit easier and simpler for small loans, it is also recommended to promote micro finance for small businesses. Bangladesh's micro finance initiatives pioneered by Nobel Laureate Mohammad Yunus are an exemplary example. The micro finance institutions in Bangladesh already cover over 30 million members and offer over USD 7 billion loans annually. Beginning with financing self-employed individuals and home based businesses, modern microfinance in Bangladesh has now reached out to microenterprises as well, bringing about significant improvement in poverty levels and social indicators, particularly for women. India must also scale up its micro-finance initiatives to enable access to small credit to a large number of solopreneurs.
Business Skill Training
Small solo entrepreneurs often do not have access to any formal business or management training. Resultantly, they sometimes fail to realize the potential of their own enterprise and remain stuck in the low to middle income business earning model. Similarly, they lack skills and knowledge of strategies to successfully scale up their businesses.
Making business skill training accessible to all is a critical element of boosting entrepreneurial spirit and capacity. At Bada Business, we specialize in offering highly affordable business training and hand-holding solutions to thousands of small and self-employed businesses. Our organization, Bada Business also supports and mentors individuals to become Independent Business Consultants who act as our business partners and product distributors on the ground. We are aiming to create 1,000,00 IBCs by next year. The Government must initiate measures to make business management training accessible to all through state initiatives and public private partnerships. Private organisations must also experiment with business models that allow solopreneur partners to flourish.
Lack of access to adequate markets is another obstacle in increasing revenue and scaling up business operations. The government must create more avenues for seller buyer interactions such as `haats' for artisans and craftsmen, district level bodies to enable small entrepreneurs market their products as well as trade associations to connect businesses. Such initiatives are required not only at national levels but at every district level to ensure improved market access to all self employed individuals and small enterprises.
Promoting Tech Adoption
Most urban sophisticated solopreneurs survive and thrive on technology platforms. Think of YouTube stars, blogging sensations, wellness and fitness experts, most of them further their businesses through the digital technology medium. However, for small solo business owners in small towns and rural areas, technology adoption remains a major constraint. Here, the need for digital transition, training and access to digital tools becomes pertinent. Offering technology guidance and tech adoption help can enable such businesses access a larger consumer base and sell their products/services more efficiently.