Focus on Dalit entrepreneurs, Modi offers support

Dalit BusinessA new breed of Dalit entrepreneurs is itching for new opportunities and is hoping that India’s new prime minister will show them the way.

Narendra Modi, who flaunts his days as a tea-seller before becoming the prime minister of the world’s most populous democracy, seems more than willing to lend a helping hand. In a recent interaction with Dalit entrepreneurs led by Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry Chairman Milind Kamble, Modi assured them full support in fructifying their potential.

Modi has asked the ministries of finance, industry and micro, small and medium enterprises, among others, to help the Dalit youth break out of shackles of social and economic backwardness and turn into entrepreneurs.

“The young should be encouraged to set out on their own and build enterprises, irrespective of caste identities. The government will fully support them in helping themselves,” Modi told the group of Dalit industry leaders an informal meeting in Delhi August 7.

The Dalit leaders urged Modi to ease regulatory norms for starting a new business and also suggested that the official financing arm for scheduled castes to be shifted to the finance ministry. They also sought Modi’s intervention in framing a policy for three million Dalit-run MSMEs, the top 1,000 of which almost control a billion dollars in annual revenues.

“We outlined major problems, especially the inability of Dalit youth to raise equity and finance for their ventures, in a separate representation to the PM. We expect to meet industry and finance ministries on the issue soon,” Kamble told the Economic Times. He also conveyed to the prime minister that reducing regulatory requirements would encourage more Dalit men and women to become entrepreneurs.

“For aspiring Dalit entrepreneurs, a big barrier is lack of access to credit. Since banks insist on collateral and poor Dalits lack assets. This creates a vicious cycle,” he noted, proposing that Modi sets up a committee of finance ministry and RBI officials to suggest policy options.

The rise of Dalit entrepreneurs is an inspiring story of how enterprising people from socially deprived backgrounds have carved a name for themselves in the corporate world. A new book entitled “Defying the Odds – The Rise of Dalit Enterprise” has documented the lives and times of emerging Dalit entrepreneurs. The book was presented by the Dalit delegation to Prime Minister Modi. Providing lively profiles of small and medium size businesses, the book shows how they experienced extreme deprivation during childhood and have now created success stories.

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