‘Increased interaction, genuine outreach, helping solve problems’
Anant Sardeshmukh has been director deneral of the MCCIA for 11 years. Next month he will retire and Prashant Girbane will succeed him. Sardeshmukh will continue to guide businesses with his expertise and aims to set up a consultancy where he aims to use his experience with the MCCIA to the advantage of clients. Here he speaks of his eleven years and the startup ecosystem.
How would you describe your 11 years at MCCIA?
In these 11 years in general there were a lot of challenges and a lot of opportunities that we exploited to positive outcomes. One was to create a confidence in the SME sector. The chamber is very interested in the welfare of SMEs. Somehow they were shy of us and felt that we were tit was only for the big companies. So increased interaction, a genuine outreach and attempts to solving their problems has over the years helped reverse this belief.
Can you give us some examples?
There was a micro company started by two young men. They were into fabrication work and had rented some premises. One fine day their power was disconnected. They approached us to help them. It was March and they had some orders that had to be executed. Year-ending pressures were high. MSEDCL had refused to help them. The reason their connection was withdrawn was because the landlord had not cleared the bills. So I went to MSEDCL and explained to their chief that if their connection was not given these young men would be destroyed. Their company would be finished; they had an order that could not be executed without power. I also asked these young men to sit with the power supply guys. Eventually they agreed and reconnected their power on the terms that they would pay up the Rs 1.5 lakh in three instalments.
Another case that comes to mind is about a mid-sized company in Talegaon whose MD was gheraoed by the workers. I got a call from them. I spoke to the rural police and told them that this was a company that had Singaporean investment. If they had a bad experience then we would get a bad name and would not be able to attract foreign investment. The cops got into action.
What do you think can be done for the startup ecosystem here in Pune?
Well I would say that a lot has already been achieved. We have a lot of startups and a very enthusiastic young people who are keen on becoming entrepreneurs. I think we lack start ups in the manufacturing sector. I guess it needs a lot more investment, more time, almost three years before they develop a prototype and not many people are willing to undertake such challenges. Yes, the government can bring about greater changes, (they’ve already started with one window clearances) like say higher depreciation in machinery, clearances, better taxation and so on. I think even big companies can help the startup community. For example, L&T, that is into defence manufacturing in Pune. They have developed their supply line by promoting some entrepreneurs who they found to be good. They’ve given them space, provide them with advice and are also giving them a captive market. This kind of thing can help vastly.