SME development is an integral part of the manifesto of the incumbent Government. At the launching ceremony of the PTI 100 day agenda, the then-nominee and current Finance Minister had put the growth of Small and Medium Enterprise as the centerpiece of PTI’s strategy economic revival of the country.

While the potential of the SME sector, and hence merit of this pledge, is beyond any doubt, the Government is yet to reveal a complete plan for this particular initiative.

It is not the first time that the SME sector has caught the government’s attention, as it was very much there in the previous regime. In fact, it is an integral element of the vision 2025.

Experts have accentuated SME as a game changer for economic uplift of the country. They believe it can lead to poverty alleviation and employment creation. However, the lack of quantum leap in our SME sector during this time is a witness thereof that SME development has remained more of rhetoric than a fundamental element of an economic reform agenda.

Partially, the problem lies in myopic disposition about the very nature of the SME sector. It is a common understanding amongst Government echelons and industry stakeholders that challenges faced by Pakistani SMEs are well known – but they lack data to substantiate them. This understanding is rooted in the collective experience of various SME stakeholders however, what it seems to overlook is the need, and signs, of transformation from factor-based economy to knowledge extensive digital economy.

In China, technological development in the financing of SME, which has dramatically improved, risk management and cost-effectiveness.

Recently, Alibaba-affiliate Ant Financial has launched Artificial Intelligence (IA) based Star-Plan to facilitate the provision of cost-effective financial services to 30 million SMEs. India. It has introduced AI in priority sectors like manufacturing, agriculture, and financial services, etc.

It is an open secret that the world is experiencing an unrivaled surge towards automation, and increasingly markets are converging into one digital marketplace where products and services are sellable without traditional distribution channels and restrictions.

Similarly, digital products and innovative tech-based business model have opened a foray of unique opportunities and challenges for all type and size of businesses.

The advent of international tech-based market players like Uber and Careem and indigenous startups like Food-panda and Daraz illustrates how advancements in information technology, is reshaping the future of SMEs in developed and developing parts of the world.

Small and Medium Enterprises Development Authority, Government of Pakistan, in collaboration with University of Management and Technology, have embarked upon an “SME Conference” for engaging representatives from industry, academia, International Development Agencies, sector associations, and international counterparts.

The agenda is to develop strategies for SME development in Pakistan. With an enhanced realization of emerging digital milieu, this platform can be instrumental in gearing up for innovative requirements of the digital economy, and ultimately making SME facet of PTI’s manifesto.

SAMI ULLAH BAJWA,

Lahore, April 1.