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Breaking Ceilings – No Sin in Growing Big

In several conversations recently, there has been reference to how much contribution comes from small-medium enterprises, the need to protect the small-scale industry (SSI) to provide diversity etc.

After all the conversations, one thought keeps coming to mind. While small businesses need to be enabled, and an ecosystem and environment created for them to thrive, there is no reason to keep them from growing.

Entrepreneurship is organic, a business is a living thing. Basic high-school biology teaches us that living things (as opposed to non-living things) grow. Preventing a living thing from growing is going against its very nature.

But that is exactly what reservation of certain manufacturing sectors for small scale does – it creates a government-regulated ceiling beyond which the business cannot invest (and, therefore, cannot grow).

The apparent objective of the policy is to “protect” the industry sector from competition from large companies. The underlying assumption is that large companies compete unfairly, and that small companies in the reserved sectors effectively cannot compete against larger players.

However, many industries and sectors in India are paying the price for that policy. For instance, even after the clothing sector was allowed a higher cap of investment in plant & machinery, and then finally removed from the list of SSI-reserved list, it struggles with its fragmented structure, against larger-scale and more efficient competitors based in China , neighbouring Bangladesh and other countries.

Obviously, in global trade, restricting the growth of domestic industry does nothing to make the country competitive. It only protects it from itself, and makes it inefficient.

So every time the list of industries reserved for small scale is reduced, in my opinion it improves the potential competitiveness of Indian industry. In that light, the government’s announcement this week of removing some more industries from the list is an occasion to cheer.

The government has identified mechanical equipment, electrical goods and stationery as the categories to be opened to larger scale manufacturing.

Consumers, retailers and consumer products brands have something to look forward to, considering that this may include products such as steel cupboards, doors, windows and ventilators, steel furniture, locks, steel and aluminium utensils, builders’ hardware, sewing machines, kitchen gadgets, and pens.

We await the final list with bated breath. And look forward to other consumer goods also being removed from the SSI-reserved list and being opened to higher investments.

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