The West Bengal Small Industries Development Corporation Limited (WBSIDCL) is a subsidiary organisation under the MSME department of the West Bengal government. Biplab Roy Choudhury, Chairman, WBSIDCL, spoke to BE’s Aritra Mitra.
Q. Tell us about your organisation.
A. This organisation was initiated by the former Chief Minister of West Bengal, Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy in 1961. His main objective was to encourage the subsidiary industries so that they can sustain each other. Our organisation is a subsidiary of the MSME department. We also support the MSMEs in crisis situations. For instance, due to the devastating effects of the recent cyclone, Bulbul, there was an immediate demand for various commodities in bulk like kitchen utensils. We cooperate with the MSMEs in delivering these sudden requirements. We have a network of vendors across the state who are prepared for these crisis situations. We engage them to combat these situations.
Q. Tell us about your projects and initiatives.
A. The government provides us with various plots of land. We maintain the plots, construct roads, build boundary walls, and gates. After the plots are prepared, shops are constructed in these plots and following a valuation, we distribute them to interested parties for their business ventures. We have introduced an online system of application. We mainly evaluate the experience and capital of the applicants. We provide them security, government patronisation, electricity and water for their ventures. Recently, we have started to conduct a review of their progress every six months to ensure that the plots are being put into proper use. This is how we are promoting entrepreneurship.
Q. MSMEs cannot survive without big industries. At a time where there is a lack of investment, how do you look at the prospects of the MSMEs?
A. It is true that the MSMEs cannot progress without big industries. But one of the main objectives of the MSMEs is to create an awareness regarding entrepreneurship through their success stories. For instance, six to seven years ago, 24-25 detergent manufacturing units of our department had to shut down due to competition from various detergent companies. However, we decided to start them once again. Due to our initiative, at present there are six units which are functioning and the number will soon rise to 30. Even if 10 people are engaged in each unit, employment for almost 300 people will be generated. This is how we are trying to expand our market. These units are mainly concentrated in North and South 24 Parganas, Howrah and Hoogly districts. We have also started a survey to identify which regions are suitable for which products. We are also taking part in various CSR initiatives like distribution of computers to schools. Our main task is to explore the undiscovered areas and to help them in their progress. Recently, in Ethelbari in north Bengal, we have received a plot of 50 acres. The people there have shown interest in building the concrete constructions in that plot. They will manufacture, deliver and set up the concrete structures. This will reduce the hassles of construction. They also suggested that instead of constructing the highways in the present method, we should use concrete slabs. Even if few slabs are damaged, it will be easier to replace them with new ones. All these developments have made me realise that significant awareness has been created.
Q. How is the road ahead for the MSMEs?
A. In the Union Budget, there are both positives and negatives for the MSMEs. In certain cases, the allocations have been reduced and so we have to re-think about certain initiatives. After I assumed office, I asked the industrialists to manufacture lithium batteries so that it can be used in driving cars instead of petroleum. This will certainly lessen the expenditure on importing oil.
Q. Tell us something about your future projects.
A. The problem of middle man has been eliminated. In Bolpur, we have constructed a market and another one is under construction. In the constructed market, there are 50 houses of around 450-480 square feet, which have been installed where people can live, work, and sell their products. There is also a huge space that can provide tourists with refreshments. In the new market, which is under construction, there will be around 100 houses. These markets will also be tourist attractions where we will be offering everything under one roof. In this way, we are creating opportunities across the state.