Director’s talk on rejuvenating MSME post-COVID

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From the desk of Director, IIT KGP:

The post-COVID industrial world would wake up to a new dawn towards the involvement of MSMEs in re-energizing the industrial sector. This sector has a huge contribution in our manufacturing industry. However, as the pandemic situation leads to a new normal, availability of capital would become a challenge for MSMEs thus creating bottlenecks for jumpstarting industrial production and employment of labourers. Social distancing would also restrict employment of existing workforce in full strength. Further the low capital situation would delay new product development or sustenance of production at current costs thus disrupting the dynamic demands of industries and consumers. 

This crucial situation can be addressed by the state funded technical institutions like IITs, NITs, central universities and research labs which can play a key role towards rejuvenating MSMEs. We have the expertise to start exploring the market demands and product requirements, based on the economic condition of industries, especially MSMEs. We can help them bridge the gap by innovating product designs for affordable items with large scale use. These could be PPEs, medical kits, sanitation items etc. which would obviously find a ready market. Also the capital goods sector is evolving. We have seen automobile sector is branching out into medical equipment. Hence the opportunity is enormous.

Other areas wherein technical institutions can intervene are capacity building and upgradation of shop floor technologies keeping in view limited budgets. We can develop applications for MSMEs to help them connect with demand and supply points, provide information updates regarding finances available, government and banking notices, market situation, latest technologies, thus creating an economic model. 

Also we have to ensure that R&D of centrally funded institutes is channelised to the MSMEs or manufacturing companies engaging with the sector. This would require the focus of R&D to be outcome based, encompassing all technological domains, achieving significant levels of import substitution, benefiting the public at large and strengthening our economy. 

Further, the MSMEs can be trained on high-end technologies to conduct experiments and design new products. Such units can also deliver trained personnel who can launch startups or help the manufacturing sector to upgrade their product and process design and production.

At IIT Kharagpur, we have set up one such training unit – the Centre of Excellence in Advanced Manufacturing Technology, with support from the Department of Heavy Industry of Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises, Government of India, along with a consortium of top six industry members in the country.

However, all of these have a steep timescale and the initiatives need to be launched with a sense of urgency to help sustain the MSMEs in the coming months.

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