In the wake of Cabinet approval being received for the setting up of Business Service Centres across the island, a meeting to discuss the progress of the pilot project in Moneragala, was held on 3rd July 2020, under the patronage of the Secretary to the Ministry of Small, Medium, Business & Enterprise Development (SMBED), Mr. N.B.M Ranatunge.
The Business Service Centers will be established to address the current gaps in policy intervention strategies to provide multiple services for the micro small medium enterprises creating a conducive environment for startups and existing businesses to develop and sustain their businesses in a competitive market.
Services offered by the Business Service Center
An information desk will be available at the BSC to provide information relevant to the SME sector on registration process, approvals, permits required for specific enterprises, basic information on labor laws and tax, environment and health regulations, market information – access to website and portals, supply chains, sourcing and raw materials and financial facilities. Regulatory services on business registration and approvals from relevant authorities will be facilitated through the Business Service Centers. Further, there will be service provision on capacity and skill development, technology and innovation, entrepreneurship and management development, access to finance, market facilitation, research and development.
Linking BSC with Uva Wellassa University Business Linkage Cell
Speaking at the meeting, Dr. Sampath Dharmadasa, the director of Uva Wellassa University Business Linkage Cell described how the university can facilitate services to MSMEs through the Business Service Center. The MSMEs will be given an opportunity for product development and innovation by linking with universities. Though it is difficult to connect universities and enterprises, Uva University has so far provided services to enterprises on product development, innovation and technology development. It is important to disseminate the technical knowledge to MSMEs, change their thinking, make them think innovatively and motivate them. Uva Wellassa University Business Linkage Cell conducts business forums annually and they have a food lab to assist MSMEs. The university expects to share technology and knowledge with MSMEs through the business service center.
Mr Lakkathas Asai, Additional Secretary, the Ministry of Small & Medium Business and Enterprise Development explained the action plan for the implementation of Business Service Centers which consists of 11 steps. Mr Chandana Lokuhewage, Additional District Secretary – Moneragala presented the progress of the e-business registration. The officers will be placed at the BSC to provide different services to MSMEs such as information on loans and financial facilities, technical facilities, product development and innovation and market opportunities. The Moneragala AG office has already initiated e-business registration in the Sevanagala Divisional Secretariat. E-business registration will be linked with Moneragala Business Service Center, which will be established on the 4th floor of the AG office building, to register the businesses in all 11 Divisional Secretaries of Moneragala district. As per the recommended e-business registration process, online application will be filled for the enterprises seeking business name registration at the Business Service Center. The officer, who is placed at the Business Service Center, will coordinate with relevant government authorities and officers to receive the required recommendations from the authorities and complete the business registration. Grama Niladhari Officers should have access to internet to view the application and provide recommendations and approvals necessary for business registration. Lack of internet facilities, smart phones to GS officers and their digital skills were identified as few barriers to successfully implement the process of e-business registration.
Mr. W.M. Indika Waragoda, owner of Crest Minerals Enterprise, spoke about the importance of the Business Service Center and how restrictive laws and regulations have become a barrier for businesses. He stressed that it is important to include entrepreneurship in the education system as a subject. It was also requested to establish a development bank for MSMEs to receive loans on low interest taking into consideration the difficulties that enterprises run into.
Web Portal and e-business registration
A prototype of the web portal of the Business Service Center and the touch panel system was presented to the audience of stakeholders by the Uva Wellassa University Business Linkage Cell. The e-business registration software and the ongoing work with the e-business registration was also presented.
The Moneragala Business Service Center is scheduled for opening towards the end of September.
The Secretary Mr. N.B.M Ranatunge also visited a few of the enterprises funded by the EU through the enterprise project in the UVA province and discussed their challenges and successes.