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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 107

Ceylon Chamber of Commerce on assisting SMEs

By Quintus Perera - Asian Tribune

Colombo, 06 December, ( As the leading Confederation of Chambers of Commerce in Sri Lanka the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce (CCC) in their strategic approach to the economic development of Sri Lanka has long since realized and identified the vital importance of SME Sector to national economic development.

Thus, the Chamber has planned to use its long experience in offering business development services and closer networking with the Government, donor agencies and international organizations to facilitate SME development.

In the aftermath of the Tsunami Disaster, with the financial assistance of the Chamber members and network partners, the Chamber implemented a very successful livelihood development program for tsunami affected micro and small entrepreneurs in collaboration with the regional/district chambers. The Chamber in partnership with the Give2Asia Program of The Asia Foundation and the Sustainable Recovery of Micro Enterprise Sector Project provided livelihood support to more than 900 micro and small entrepreneurs in nine tsunami affected districts.

Presently, the CCC offers a range of business development services directed at the entire private sector. It has also been implementing several private sector business development projects to assist the private sector companies. These projects have mainly focused on facilitating technology transfer, skills development, market access and improvement of managerial competence. A large number of SMEs have benefited from the BDS services offered by the CCC and the special projects implemented by the CCC.

While the assistance have been continued, to streamline an aggressive approach towards facilitating the SMEs and with the objecttive of consolidating and further strengthening the services offered by the Chamber to the SMEs, it has now established a SME Unit at the Chamber head office. The SME Unit would be the focal point for SME support services offered by the CCC and it would also focus on strengthening the close cooperation with regional/district chambers developed during the implementation of tsunami livelihood development programs.

Main objectives of the SME Unit is: to increase the Chamber’s focus on the SME sector and enable the Chamber to make appropriate interventions in support of the growth and development of the SME sector; to extend the Chamber’s outreach in to the regions through continuation of some of the micro and small enterprise development activities initiated in the aftermath of tsunami

The SME Unit will act as the focal point for SMEs interested in obtaining business information, business advisory services and a range of BDS services. An SME Desk Manager and an Executive, with the guidance of a Senior Executive, will manage the affairs of the SME Unit.

The SME Desk Manager will be the first point of contact for SMEs interested in obtaining BDS services from the Chamber. Depending on the requirements of the SMEs, the Manager would assist the needy SMEs through: offering business advisory services and basic information by the employees attached to the Unit; directing the SMEs, which need further assistance to relevant divisions of the Chamber and facilitating outsourcing of services such as market research, consultancy, training etc, that cannot be provided in house, from capable BDS providers.

The services offered by the SME Unit will include:

Business Information Services such as business contacts, general business information, access to Chamber library and business registration Procedures and legal requirements. Service on Access to Markets include: information on local/internatinal business opprtunities; b;usiness matchmaking services through counterpart Chambers and Trade Promotion organizations in over 40 countries; facilitating linkages between larger enterprises and SMEs; promoting exchange partnerships between larger enterprises (LE) and SME's needs in to opportunities of SMEs; organize outward business delegations for SMEs with effective business match making services and facilitating meetings with visiting overseas business delegations.

Services on Access to Finance include: information on funding sources and curently operating credit schemes; guidance for obtaining finances for start ups and expansion of business and assistance in follow up with financial institutes on proposals/applications forwarded by SMEs. Service on Access to Technology/Training include: conducting seminars/workshops/training programmes for updating SMEs on laterest developments in the business world and organizing technical and business management training programmes for upgrading the knowledge and skills of SME owners and managers.

Services on Access to information and Communication Technology include: guidance on usage of ICT in SME organizations; assisting SMEs to get access to ICT service providers; offering support services for customizing the software products to suit SMEs and Web advertising. Other services offered include: assisting SMEs to identify required machinery and equipment and facilitation of importation of such machinery and equipments and linking SME business and trade associations with National level business associations

In order to expand the range of BDS services offered to SMEs, the SME Unit of the Chamber has already established partnerships with following organizations: Canadian Executive Services Organization (CESO) is a not for profit organization supported by the Government of Canada through CIDA and has been operating in Sri Lanka since 1979. The current mandate of CESO Sri Lanka is to help develop Sri Lankan enterprises, especially Small & Medium Enterprises (SMEs) by providing VAs to facilitate transfer of modern technology and business management techniques. CESO engages Canadians as Volunteer Advisors (VAs) to share their business, technical and/or professional expertise. Over 3,000 VAs on the CESO roster serve as mentors, advisors and trainers to CESO clients and partners in Canada and abroad. The SME Unit has entered into a cooperation agreement with CESO, which will offer the services of Canadian Volunteer Advisors to provide consultancy support to needy SMEs

Nucleus Entrep: Nucleus Program is an SME Clustering initiative promoted by GTZ and a number of nucleus operating in various SME sectors have formed Nucleus Entrepreneur Foundation. NEF has agreed to partner with the SME Unit of the Chamber to promote new SME clusters and strengthen existing clusters.

SIYB Association of Sri Lanka is the successor to the Sida funded ILO SIYB Programme and is one of the most recognized SME Training providers in Sri Lanka. The Chamber has obtained their services to provide training for Tsunami affected micro entrepreneurs and SIYB Association has agreed to partner with the CCC to offer their Start and Improve Your Business (SIYB) and Expand Your Business (EYB) Programmes to needy SMEs.

- Asian Tribune -

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