“If you cannot do great things, do small things in a great way.” - Napoleon Hill
Eight Commonwealth Asian Nations joined hands to discuss the contemporary needs of young entrepreneurs in the region at the Commonwealth Asia Alliances of Young Entrepreneurs (CAAYE) Summit held in Colombo, Sri Lanka from the 9th - 11th of November, in parallel to the Commonwealth Heads of Governments Meetings (CHOGM). The theme of the summit was highlighted as “Profit with a Purpose” which argued around its key objectives in promoting an ecosystem that supports the development of young entrepreneurs who contribute to economic, social and environmental sustainability across CAAYE countries. CAAYE 2013 was hosted by the Federation Chamber of Commerce and Industry Sri Lanka (FCCISL) in partnership with the Commonwealth Secretariat.
South Asia concurrently holds the greatest opportunities and the risks of been responsible for the world’s largest youth populations in transition, therefore facing reality and addressing those contemporary needs should be key to those respective stakeholders such as governments, for a more stable and prosperous economy. Common challenges faced by young entrepreneurs in Asia are “fundamentals” concerns, which could easily been eliminated if there is right focus and continuous review by the relevant authorities in these countries. Those concerns that caught my eye included the need for updated knowledge and curriculum development at all level, need to not jail but celebrate failure, revamping of “extensive” government and organizational procedures allowing to reduce the lead time.
Understanding the role of a social entrepreneur is seen not to be clearly understood by some key stakeholders, as the proceeds in encouragement and engagement with one, creates disturbance. Over time, social entrepreneurs might need to look at hybrid models for long term sustainability.
We should aim at creating a support system for youth-led enterprises with economic, social and environmental business objectives and ensure youth participation at all country level, bilateral and multi-lateral policy making forums and consistency in policies that support them. Furthermore establish better infrastructure to support start-ups, specifically including more effective incubators. We should also campaign in creating a Commonwealth Asia Business Visa to facilitate the easy movement of entrepreneurs for business development within the region. Authorities need to create structured long term funding schemes with extended moratorium periods to support young entrepreneurs in the start-up stage, including legislate tax relief and tax holidays to encourage youth start-ups.
The structure of education, training and mentorships programmes with innovation as the key accelerator has become oxygen to today’s entrepreneurial atmosphere. In this ambition, we should engage in formulating a curriculum on ethical leadership, innovative and responsible entrepreneurship supported by financial literacy starting from school. While ensuring appropriately trained instructors who will encourage entrepreneurship as a career for youth. This should be reviewed through a system to periodically benchmark against global best practices, and report on relevant country policies and their performance.
There is an immense need to streamline the system for fair and inclusive access to financing for socially responsible businesses, which will ensure that adequate funding is available to youth-led enterprises that address development imperatives and disseminate widely, the information on available government funding schemes. Not withholding to encourage a minimum percentage of every commercial bank’s total loan portfolio as mandated for disbursement to such youth start-ups. Along with a mandate of a single-window system to co-ordinate and standardize policy across multiple agencies and ministries involved in Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise licensing, funding and development.
Last, and most importantly to accelerate policy implementation across borders, which will create and implement regulations that permit ease of access to Commonwealth Asia markets, while enhancing on the use of communication platforms that ensure borderless intellectual exchange and best practice sharing. Governments should agree on a standardized process for time bound approvals, licensing, funding and encourage entrepreneurs to look for cross border partnerships and collaboration opportunities.
The summit included field visits to various sizes of entrepreneurial ventures, business to business meetings and we were delighted to host an eminent panel of speakers who shared their experiences towards success, which included Jeremy Liddle, President G20 Australia, Shiraz Gidwani, Chief Executive Officer, Iktara World, Ahmed Alhendawi, the United Nations Secretary General’s Special Envoy on Youth, Ajith Nivad Cabral, Governor, C. J Siriwardena, Assistant Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka and the list goes on.
On the 11th of November 2013, our team headed by Dr. Ruhul Mirchandani Founder President of CAAYE presented the official communique to Mr. Animul Islam Khan, Regional Director Commonwealth Secretariat Asia Regional Center, to be discussed and implemented in the respective country level. Subsequently he in turn presented the recommendations at the Commonwealth Business Council.
The Commonwealth consists of nations from various stands in terms an economics, social and political perspective, therefore how are all these going to be accepted, communicated and implemented? Are they going to be proactive or reactive? Do they see the youth tradition and need for new job creation or are they looking at short term strategies for daily survival?