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Rajeev Chandrasekhar takes up mission to protect MSME women entrepreneurs; provides suggestions to FM

Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar has written a letter to finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman where he has listed suggestions to improve the livelihoods of women entrepreneurs as also reboot economy amid the coronavirus pandemic

Improving lives of women entrepreneurs: Rajeev Chandrasekhar writes to Nirmala Sitharaman
New Delhi, First Published May 26, 2020, 5:30 PM IST

New Delhi:  India has registered 6,535 new cases in the last 24 hours, taking the country’s Covid-19 tally to 1,45,380 on Tuesday. This includes 80,722 patients with the disease, 60,490 who have been treated and discharged and 4,167 deaths.

It’s been two months that India has been experiencing an unprecedented lockdown, all thanks to the coronavirus pandemic that continues to spread its tentacles and devour more lives and destroy and demolish the economy inter alia.

While the world in general and India in specific limp back to normalcy, a great many people are doing their best to help their fellow citizens by ameliorating their living conditions by alleviating their miseries.

Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar too has been doing his bit in this regard. He has been sending inputs to the finance minister after having valuable discussions with knowledgeable citizens and businessmen in this regard.

He met several women entrepreneurs who took active part in discussing ways to reboot the economy. The MP also explained to them the steps taken by the Modi government to support businesses in the Rs 20 lakh crore package.

All major economies have been affected by the pandemic and there have been disruptions in the supply side. India is no exception.

Such is the impact of the virus that all sectors, be it manufacturing, agriculture or hospitality, have suffered terrible losses.

In its endeavour to extricate the sectors from the mess, the Indian government has taken a slew of measures like strengthening the hands of the state governments as also taking care of the poor and helping businesses sustain themselves.

The finance minister also announced a financial package of Rs 1.7 lakh crore and the RBI announced a three month (now extended by 3 more months) by the RBI.

But beyond all these financial measures to reboot the economy, the Prime Minister has  a greater plan to help its citizens by making India emerge as a global competitive market for manufacturing and service sectors.

Prime Minister’s grand and action-oriented plan AtmanirbharBharat is a great chance for India to change its thinking and not to be vulnerable to anyone. The announcements made by the Modi government in this regard will indeed make India lead the world.

After having rubbed shoulders with the virtuosos in different fields, the MP shot a letter to the FM on suggestions relating to MSMEs on May 2 2020.

As a follow-up to that letter, he sent another letter that deals in particular with women entrepreneurs and challenges that they are facing in dealing with this economic shock.

Based on facts and requests, he arranged for a videoconference session on May 14, where over 150 women entrepreneurs joined in and engaged with him on the issue of Rebooting Economy – where he explained the significant measures that FM and the government have taken to support businesses in the recently announced Rs 20 lakh crore package.

The objective on the MP’s part was to communicate measures as initiated by the GOI and to hear their views, concerns and suggestions.

Through this letter he has attempted to list out the results of the engagement.

Following is the letter:

Dear Nirmala ji,

During this period of coronavirus shock, I have been sending you my inputs and suggestions and those also from citizens and businesses who reach out to me and/or I engage with.

I have already sent you a letter with suggestions from MSMEs on 2 May 2020. This letter is a follow-up to that and deals in particular with women entrepreneurs and challenges that they are facing in dealing with this economic shock.

I have received many emails and messages from women entrepreneurs who are shouldering a major brunt of the lockdown. Women own 20 percent of micro enterprises, 5 percent small enterprises, and less than 3 percent medium enterprises in India. Economic slowdowns and pandemic-induced shutdowns have hit them the hardest too.

Based on these facts and requests I arranged for a videoconference session on 14th May, where over 150 women entrepreneurs joined in and engaged with me on the issue of Rebooting Economy – where I explained the significant measures that you and the government have taken to support businesses in the recently announced Rs 20 Lakh crore Package.

I explained that while it was clear that the economy has taken a significant hit with major disruptions, The government package makes it clear that there should not be any damage to the real economy and to entrepreneurs. The financial packages as announced by the GOI will help in the soft landing of the economy and grow the economy under the model of ‘Aatma Nirbhar Bharat. And that supply chain diversification from China to India, will open up opportunities for Indian enterprises. This will scale India to be globally competitive and self- reliant. This is not about protectionism; but about creating an economy along with augmenting technology and capabilities to be globally competitive and serving both India and the world's needs for products and services.

The objective on my part was to communicate measures as initiated by the GOI and to hear their views, concerns and suggestions.

All of them recognised the seriousness of the pandemic and shared concerns with regards to survival of micro and medium industries; whether they will be able to sustain the shock.

Through this letter I will attempt to list out the results of the engagement.

1. There is a need for a separate and holistic policy for women entrepreneurs and need a separate financial package to bail out their businesses.

During and post the COVID-19 Lockdown, women entrepreneurs will need working capital to mitigate with production, rent, salary. This will also help in procurements. High-level financial policies need to be implemented at ground level to avail maximum benefits.

2. ESI, PF- time can be extended for employers and in such challenging times they can reimburse businesses for days lost.

3. Many entrepreneurs have taken SFC LOANS; the time to pay interest can be extended and repayment can be deferred along with considering concession on bills.

4. Wages are generally increased from April 1 - This needs to be deferred as there is no business.

5. Encourage state governments to look into the issues of women entrepreneurs.

6. Request to increase the moratorium period to 6 to 9 months; which is at present for 3 months and not penalize upon the interest rate. There was a statement that SBI has no concession in rate of interest for loans for expansion and modernization of existing enterprise

7. GST to be removed for micro and small business as it’s an additional burden and a lot of women entrepreneurs and start-ups cannot sell products online. Also, GST should be made payable on receipt of payment and not merely on dispatch as it currently stands today. The present system adds to the working capital challenges of entrepreneurs.

8. There was a request that rural women entrepreneurs need more specific focus and encouragement with Government programs. To aid rural women with livelihood income and also support Indian handloom and Make in India initiatives driven by women and augment R&D capabilities in the state. Suggestions for a category for rural women entrepreneurs in women entrepreneurship policy and give them due recognition.

9. Waste management services (essential services) who need to pay workers through lockdown period need quicker sanction of loans. Government policies not implemented at the grassroots by banks though it was collateral free is on paper; banks do not honour it. Besides there are red-tape & bureaucratic hurdles making the process difficult.

10. Equity funding support- extreme difficulty in getting equity funding by women businesses. Access to equity is a massive bottleneck for most women businesses.

a) Require Nationalized Banks and Fund of Funds (FoF) in which Government of India (GoI) has contributed capital, such as NIIF and SIDBI, to invest in SEBI registered women businesses focused AIFs (Gender Lens Investors) as Limited Partners, preferably at concessional terms. This will help these AIFs to crowd-in additional equity capital which is critical for women businesses to survive and grow.

b) Relax criteria for women-led start-ups to register with DPIIT so they are eligible for applying to special government relief for start-ups.
MSMEs and women entrepreneurs who have engaged with me are all determined to work hard and bounce back, but they request support at both the State Government level and our Financial sector during these challenging times.

I request you to look into the suggestions and consider them and others that will help our growing Women Entrepreneurs weather this shock and grow and play an important role in our PM’s vision of AatmaNirbharBharat.

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