Entrepreneurial ecosystem needs improvement

Entrepreneurial ecosystem needs improvement

Md. Joynal Abdin

Published by the Financial Express on May 8, 2018

Bangladesh achieved the lower middle income country status in 2015, with the hope of graduating from the list of Least Developed Countries (LDC) by 2024. At the same time, we have a vision to become a developed nation by 2041. Bangladesh’s successes in different parameters of Millennium Development Goals (MDG) have been praised by global think-tanks and investment banks. Renowned investment banker Goldman Sachs and economist Jim O’Neill identified Bangladesh as one of the Next Eleven (N11) countries along with Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Turkey, South Korea and Vietnam back in 2005.

In one of his recent articles published by BARRON’S on 28 April 2018, O’ Neill praised Vietnam for its successful journey of economic development from 2005 to 2018. He described Turkey and South Korea as countries having living standards similar to the European countries. But he was completely silent about Bangladesh.

Similarly, JP Morgan identified Bangladesh as one of the Frontier Five (Frontier 5) countries along with Vietnam, Nigeria, Kazakhstan and Kenya in 2007. JP Morgan revised this list of Frontier Five in 2017 by keeping Ghana, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Peru, and Colombia in the list, which they felt have more investment opportunities and prospects. Bangladesh was again missing from this list as well. Therefore, it is time for Bangladesh to rethink its entrepreneurial ecosystem: Why we are absent from such influential global ratings? Is it because Bangladesh was more promising for investment in 2005 or 2007 than the developing Bangladesh of today? Or is it because our entrepreneurial ecosystem is becoming more complex due to absence of certain entrepreneurial tendencies or features?

Let us try to analyse entrepreneurship, factors that influence it, models of entrepreneurship development, and significance of entrepreneurship for a developing country like Bangladesh. Scholars have defined entrepreneurship in different ways. For example, Kuratko & Hodgetts defined entrepreneurship as a dynamic process of vision, change, and creation. It requires application of energy and passion towards the creation and implementation of new ideas and creative solutions. It includes the willingness to take calculated risks in terms of time, equity, or to marshal needed resources and fundamental skills towards building solid business plans.

According to Harvard Kennedy School, entrepreneurship consists of any earnest activity that starts, maintains, and develops a profit-oriented business in interactions with internal situation of the business and external situations like economic, social, and political ones surrounding the business. In simplified form, we can say that entrepreneurship is an entity to commercialise an idea or innovation with a profit motive by taking calculated risks. Entrepreneur is that risk-taker who organises all the factors of production and uses them to convert an idea into a profitable venture.

Two types of environmental factors have influence over entrepreneurship, namely internal or controllable factors and external or uncontrollable factors. Controllable internal factors are lack of efficient manpower, absence of technical knowledge or appropriate machineries, managerial know-how, cost of the factors of production etc.

One of the most important comparative advantages of Bangladesh is its young manpower. But there is a shortage of skilled manpower in the market; as a result, local entrepreneurs are employing many foreign managers and technicians in the readymade garments sector. We have a scope to develop need-based, industry-specific skilled manpower in Bangladesh. But unfortunately, all the public and private universities are generating job-seekers educated on old-fashioned curricula. As a result, they are not capable of fulfilling the needs of different industrial sectors and remain unemployed. More than three million educated young men and women are unemployed in the country now. Additional two million educated job-seekers are entering the economy every year. Therefore, there is tough competition for availing any job. The government can revise the academic curricula after consultations with the industries and incorporate current issues to mitigate this challenge. Private sector entrepreneurs can be encouraged to spend money for their employees’ training at home and abroad in order to develop their skills and improve productivity in the local industries. There can be a provision in the next national budget for allowing private enterprises to spend five per cent of their income for capacity development of their workforce by offering equal amounts of tax waiver.

Uncontrollable or external factors include inconsistency of government policies, discontinuation of policies, frequent shift of policies, unjustified taxation system, corruption in government departments, unprofessional bureaucracy, deteriorating law and order situation, extortions etc. Bangladesh is suffering from negative impacts through each of the uncontrollable factors. Therefore, doing business here is more complicated and costlier than the competing countries. As a result, it is performing miserably in the global ‘doing business’ index every year. Our complex, time-consuming and corrupt processes of business registration and approvals are discouraging local youths from becoming entrepreneurs and are also repelling foreign investors.

Bangladesh needs a healthy entrepreneurial ecosystem to sustain its status as a developing country and graduate to a developed nation status, because entrepreneurs have a significant role in the economic growth of a country in the following ways:

  1. Entrepreneurs invest their money to innovate processes and techniques for increasing productivity in respective enterprises and sectors. Thus, they contribute towards improvement of national productivity and GDP growth of a country.
  2. Entrepreneurs generate employment opportunities by establishing new enterprises and helping the government in its fight against unemployment.
  3. Entrepreneurs adopt new technologies in respective industries, and facilitate transfer of technology throughout the country.
  4. Entrepreneurs play strategic roles in commercialisation of new inventions in the society.
  5. They invest money and take risks to produce new products by utilising resources available in a society.
  6. Progress of a business venture or industry in a community helps improve the standard of living of that particular community.
  7. Entrepreneurs play a crucial role in the restructuring and transformation of an economy. For example, Bangladesh economy is now gradually changing from a traditional agrarian one to an industrial one.
  8. Balanced industrialisation facilitates balanced economic development of a country.
  9. Entrepreneurship ensures dynamism in industries by launching innovative products and services.
  10. Entrepreneurs often search for new international markets, and create new market mechanisms locally.

In conclusion, we can say that entrepreneurship plays a multidimensional role in the development of a country. Therefore, the Bangladesh government should ensure a healthy ecosystem to encourage new entrepreneurs and promote proper growth of existing players by implementing business-friendly policies, regulations, processes, ensuring law and order, and curbing corruption, extortions etc. Bangladesh has a long way to go in creating a congenial entrepreneurial ecosystem and improving its current ranking in the global ‘doing business’ index. Without effective steps that can address these issues, foreign investors are unlikely to come in a big way, while local investors may be lured to migrate to other countries.

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Development and Promotion of Entrepreneurship Education

Development and Promotion of Entrepreneurship Education

Md. Joynal Abdin

The Daily Sun on May 06, 2017

Entrepreneurs are considered as the most important segment of the society to generate employment opportunity, increasing GDP growth, fostering economic development around the world. Therefore, entrepreneurship development is one of the priority activities of all development initiatives. Once it was assumed that the entrepreneurship is a by-born quality to identify profitable ideas, organise factors of production, take risks to be failure so on and so forth. But through a long debate during last century scientists have succeeded to prove it that, entrepreneurship is not only a by-born quality but it could be created through proper education, training and other pro-entrepreneurial supports along with a congenial environment. Entrepreneurship creation could require hundreds of supports but the most important part of it is entrepreneurship education.

Entrepreneurship education includes both academic knowledge and practical skills to prepare young people to be job provider instead of searching for a job in the market. It provides knowledge, skills and motivation to encourage student’s young mind to become an entrepreneur. Fostering entrepreneurship attitudes and skills in secondary schools raises awareness of career opportunities, as well as of ways young people can contribute to the development and prosperity of the nation. It helps to reduce unemployment and number of jobseekers one of the major problems around the world. Entrepreneurship could be one of the mandatory subjects in all levels of education with a major specialised faculty in the undergraduate or graduate levels. Specialised curriculum as well as specialised institute/university could be established to produce entrepreneurs in Bangladesh. Neighbouring India identified this issue as one of the key requirement for industrial advancement and established the Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India in 1983 at Ahmadabad, Gujarat. EDI is a successful model replicated in most of the Indian states and around 25 countries globally. It is producing entrepreneurs the job providers since its inception.   Our government or even the private sector could replicate the model here in Bangladesh very easily and I know that EDI authorities as very helpful in this regard.

Entrepreneurship education is essential not only to shape up the mind-sets of young people but also to provide the skills, knowledge and attitudes that are central to develop an entrepreneurial culture. Entrepreneurs play the role of catalyst to achieve economic and social development, GDP growth, promoting innovation, fostering employment generation and equity development. Entrepreneurship education is similar but not the same curriculum of business education. It requires motivation, inspiration, creation of risk taking tendency, coordination, networking, competition, business secrecy, trend analysis so on and so forth along with the business courses like management, marketing, finance, accounting etc. Entrepreneurship education includes basic scientific, ICT, innovation topics too along with hands on skill development and efficiency enhancement. It could be divided into two major heads namely entrepreneurship education and entrepreneurship training.

Entrepreneurship education could be started with one or more compulsory courses from the secondary level up to the higher secondary certificates. Specialised entrepreneurship development courses could be introduced at undergraduate and graduate level under a separate faculty than that of the existing business schools. Specialised residential institutes/universities could give more output in terms of entrepreneurship development education. On the other hand entrepreneurship training could be a specialised type of practical training including apprenticeship in relevant factories started from secondary vocational level to the diploma or higher diploma/post graduate diploma levels. But for both the types of entrepreneurship study separate international standard curriculum has to be developed first. Then a sufficient number of teachers and trainers have to be developed through international standard ToTs at home or abroad. They should be selected based on open competition and previous result analysis. They have to be offered special package of benefits to ensure retention up to a certain period of time.

Producing entrepreneurship graduate is not sufficient for entrepreneurship development. An enabling environment has to be created and maintained through harmonisation of existing policies and enacting new policies of the government. Startup friendly business environment is absent in Bangladesh till today. No bank is offering loan to a startup, no tender is allowing taking part without a certain years of experience, and no government service is providing soft condition to an initiating enterprise here in Bangladesh. Probably first 1,000 days of a newly established enterprise are the toughest period of an entrepreneur here in Bangladesh. Initial business support services are absent here. Initial registrations and licenses are provided by a long lists of organisations under different ministries of the government without interlink or inter-coordination. Therefore starting a new business is the toughest job here in Bangladesh. So this starting point has to be made easy and smooth.

Initial investment, incubatory services, registrations, licenses, business networking, support services, intermediary services, and startup environment should get priority of the government policies to make the entrance easy, smooth and hassle free for a new/young entrepreneur. Otherwise next generation will not be interested to come into business in home condition rather they will migrate to abroad and brain drainage movement will get another momentum. Secondly all the government agencies like police, environment, factory, boiler, tax and customs authority, BSTI, and the local administration has to be motivated to change their mindset of existing administrative tendency into a service prodder tendency. Because nobody will go to buy harassments by investing his/her own money and brain here in Bangladesh and become an entrepreneur. Government and the private sector especially the trade organizations has to be working closely to identify existing anomalies of becoming new entrepreneurs and mitigate those factors to create a pro-investment friendly environment here in Bangladesh.

A congenial business environment will not only create local entrepreneurs but also attract foreign investment to the economy. With and united effort of both the channels of investment industrialisation of Bangladesh will be ensured and a sustainable economic development will be in place. Therefore it is the right time to look into the entrepreneurship education system seriously and create an entrepreneurship friendly business environment here in Bangladesh. Both the government and private sector joint effort could lead the initiative into a success.