Sustainability is related to entrepreneurship. ‘Sustainable Development’- for a developing country like Bangladesh, is more of a buzz word than a concrete strategy for most entrepreneurs. Truth be told micro and cottage businesses are the key for many households in rural areas for earning their livelihood, yet, Bangladesh is ranked at the bottom spectrum of entrepreneurship index coming at 132 out of 137 countries in 2019 (László, Esteban, Gábor, & Zoltan, 2019). According to a 2016 study by the International Finance Corporation, women-owned businesses constitute just 7.2 percent of the eight million businesses in Bangladesh (Mubashshira, 2022). In April 2020, the government of Bangladesh introduced a stimulus package, equivalent to roughly US$2.4 million, to boost the small and medium enterprises (SME’s) and cottage-industry sector, but the scheme has attracted few takers.
Entrepreneurship not only explores new opportunities but also ensure effective mobilization of human resource as well as brings new products and innovative technologies to society. It is the pillar of sustainable economic development. Training programs like Venture Maestras by the Research and Professional Development Centre (RPDC) of BRAC Business School helps strengthens this pillar. The program offers not only a theoretical education on tactics to overcome the challenges women face in the business environment, but also gives a practical understanding of the business world to women entrepreneurs in Bangladesh.
The main focus of the Venture Maestras program is grassroots women entrepreneurs. Female makes up nearly half of the population in Bangladesh yet they make up less than a third of the labor force as per World Bank estimates (Labor Force, total- Bangladesh, 2022). This is evidence of economic and social barriers that women face in Bangladesh and upskill trainings targeting grassroots women entrepreneurs is key to encourage sustainable economic development.
Urmi’s story is a testament to the fact that it is not compulsory to have a degree to be a successful entrepreneur. A simple training program that highlights features of business activities in a structured way goes a long way in helping grassroots entrepreneurs to both understand essence of business and help upscale their business. Technical skills such as business canvas model, e-marketing, product photography skills, efficient investment, and budgeting, are critical for long term success of micro and cottage businesses that will lead to a more sustainable business environment in Bangladesh.
Figure: 1 Urmi Akter and her employees working in the factory.
A survey conducted among the trainees of Venture Maestras on training effectiveness shows that grassroots entrepreneurs demand training in marketing and digital marketing along with business canvas model that are highly effective for promoting and visualizing their business in a holistic manner (Figure 2). It essentially helps them to diagnose their business and evaluate how they can make their businesses sustainable in the long run. The respondents also expressed how they realized value of factors such as managing stress through health literacy session that is often overlooked by entrepreneurs.
As participants belong to different district, different age group, and background, their feedbacks were quite divergent yet they agreed on the need for training for budding entrepreneurs in Bangladesh. Due to the online mode of delivery, participants acknowledged that ease of joining from anywhere along with friendly and supportive environment made the training session rewarding. Training on financial management and legal aspects of businesses were eye opening for most of the grassroots entrepreneurs as they got to learn about loan application methods, importance of track licenses and TIN-related information among others. This knowledge are valuable to plan business strategies effectively in different stages; especially if they want to scale up their operations
Figure: 2 Venture Maestras Training Effectiveness
Entrepreneurs offer a key value-generating contribution to economic progress. Compared with incumbent and existing firms, new firms invest more in searching for new opportunities. A sustainable economic development essentially means a process of upward change whereby the real per capita income of a country increases over some time. Entrepreneurs serve as the catalysts in the process of industrialization and economic growth. Technical progress alone cannot lead to economic development unless technological breakthroughs are put to economic use by entrepreneurs. It is the entrepreneur who organizes and puts to use capital, labor, and technology and these activities influence a country’s economic performance by bringing new products, methods, and production processes to the market thereby boosting productivity and continual competition. Sustainable development does not occur spontaneously as a natural consequence when economic conditions in some senses are right. A catalyst is needed and this requires entrepreneurial activity to a considerable extent. The diversity of activities that characterizes rich countries can be attributed to the supply of entrepreneurs.
Labor Force, total- Bangladesh. (2022, July). Retrieved from www.worldbank.org: https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SL.TLF.TOTL.IN?locations=BD
László, S., Esteban, L., Gábor, M., & Zoltan, J. A. (2019). Global Entrepreneurship and Development Index. Washington, D.C., USA: The Global Entrepreneurship and Development Institute .
Mubashshira, R. (2022, July). Women Micro-Merchants in Bangladesh: Can digital tech break barriers? Retrieved from www.microentrepreneursasia.com: https://www.microentrepreneursasia.com/women-micro-merchants-in-mangladesh#:~:text=Of%20the%20almost%208%20million,of%20the%20World%20Bank%20Group