Entrepreneurs: Business as usual
According to economists, an entrepreneur is an individual who combines the various factors of production and is a risk-taker and innovator at the same time. In Pakistan, the dismal state of entrepreneurship speaks volumes about the various unfavourable factors that contribute to the overall non-conducive environment for entrepreneurship.
In Pakistan, entrepreneurship is community based and certain communities such as the Bohra Community, Memons and Ismailis show a positive trend towards enhanced entrepreneurship opportunities. Mohammad Uzair, a management consultant at the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Authority (SMEDA) says that although SMEDA provides assistance in various forms, entrepreneurship is not a venture that anyone can undertake. As regards SMEDA’s services for existing and to-be entrepreneurs, he says that SMEDA is an authority that provides a number of facilities free of cost such as brief feasibility studies, development of business plans and guidance in legal aspects of setting up a new business. As a step towards encouraging women entrepreneurs, SMEDA organised a three month certificate course for women in collaboration with a local university.
Since not many universities offer courses in entrepreneurship, people in general look forward to a secure nine to five job rather than take the challenge of entrepreneurship. Mr. Abdul Ghani Shawoo, who set up his own factory in North Karachi area, says that various factors impede the progress of businesses. These include lawlessness, labour problems and the energy crisis. In addition to these he says there are a lot of checks created by government agencies that create hurdles for existing businesses. Apart from this, corruption is rampant at every stage, right from when you go to register your business. In addition, extortion money has to be paid regularly as ‘bhatta’ by businessmen and industrialists.
While it is not easy to start one’s own business, the process is twice as difficult for women entrepreneurs. They usually have fewer options, such as setting up a beauty salon or starting their own school, tuition centre or boutique. Ms Sunehra, who deals in Indian dresses, says that support from one’s family is of prime importance. If her family members restrict her from travelling, then she has to abide by it. Mr Abdul Ghani Shawoo says that although there are women running industries, their numbers are very few.
Generally, small businesses are unable to survive the growth stage. According to Mr Shawoo, approaching banks for loans is an expensive option and businesses that burden themselves with obligations in early stages eventually fail. Ms Sunehra on the other hand relies on committees to finance growth. At present her business is home based but she has not thought about renting out or buying premises as she finds it difficult to find a trustworthy business partner.
Ms Shamim, who runs a beauty parlour in a rented space, says that dealing with workers is very difficult. Add to this the increasing power tariffs and rents that make it all the more difficult.
Pakistani society has deep-rooted biases against women. Traditional, cultural, and religious factors play a limiting role when it comes to women’s mobility, interactions, bargaining power and active economic participation.
The government should implement proper processes whereby entrepreneurship is facilitated generally for both men and women, and particularly for women in Pakistan. Universities should also make it mandatory that students take courses in entrepreneurship while enrolled in a degree programme. Small and medium enterprises play a vital role in any economy and Pakistanis should not lag behind.