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Pakistan Export Bureau Boost Small and Medium-sized Enterprises

KARACHI: Pakistan To market their products overseas, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) need to have their own export promotion bureau, says Zulfikar Thaver, President of the Union of Small and Medium Enterprises (UNISAME).

“SMEs need their own export promotion bureau to promote the export of their wares,” said Thaver.

“In foreign countries, the shelves of supermarkets and chain stores are filled with Indian goods. In contrast, Pakistani SMEs are unable to penetrate the foreign markets because they are not duly supported,” explained Thaver.

“ Pakistan SMEs need a dedicated export promotion bureau for focused attention on the sector producing and manufacturing different products, but urgently require export marketing support,” he added.

“During Musharraf’s tenure, a feasibility plan was prepared, funds were allocated and a committee formed but later on, the project was shelved for reasons best known to the policy makers,” he lamented.

“There is a lot which needs to be done both within TDAP as well as within the SME sector,” noted Ismail Suttar, President of the Employers Federation of Pakistan (EFP). SMEs need to sell with a product driven approach and TDAP should help them accomplish this endeavour, he added.

“TDAP looks for quick results in the form of short-term gains whereas in general, SME development is a long-term process that requires an investment of effort and hard work to achieve the broader goals,” Suttar explained.

“The Export Promotion Board (EPB) needs to make focused policies for SMEs,” emphasised Ahsan Mehanti, CEO of Arif Habib Commodities. In developed countries, SMEs employ over 70% of the total workforce. This is because of the favourable policies on taxation, special zones and energy subsidies, he added.

“TDAP has supported SMEs in the past and special policies for SMEs will further change the dynamics and raise production and export earnings,” said Mehanti.

Taurus Securities Head of Research, Mustafa Mustansir said that “SMEs also lack the muscle and reach of bigger companies. Therefore, they need support from the government”.

Thaver added that “TDAP is catering more to big exporters but SMEs are deprived because of a lack of prioritisation. Unless a serious dedicated effort is made to tap into international markets for our traditional and non-traditional goods we will not be able to compete with India which is bent upon retaining the top position, although in many items we are far superior and competitive as well. They are successful only because of their marketing skills and attractive packaging.”

The Korangi Association of Trade and Industry (KATI) President, Farazur Rehman said that “we need to identify new areas and then help SMEs venture into those areas. This cannot be done without the government’s support including a rational energy tariff. The government should also talk to friendly countries to transfer technology to Pakistan that can help SMEs. China is already transferring labour-intensive SMEs to neighbouring countries.”