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Celebrating The Rise Of The Micro-Self Entrepreneur: PM Vishwakarma Scheme Can Be A Game Changer

The word Vishwakarma originates from sum of Vishwa and Karma meaning the creator of the world.

While origins of Vishwakarma may have existed in the Rigveda, there also exists the Vishwakarman Sukta.

In Mahabharata, Vishwakarma is referred to as the lord of arts, executor of handicrafts, eminent carpenter and artisan, the designer of ornaments and a great god. Vishwakarma happens to be the presiding deity of all designers, architects, draftsmen, artisans and craftsmen.

On 17 September 2023, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the PM Vishwakarma Yojana, a new initiative to provide end-to-end support to artisans and craftspeople.

The scheme covers artisans and craftspeople engaged in 18 trades — carpenter, boat maker, armourer, blacksmith, hammer and tool kit maker, locksmith, goldsmith, potter, sculptor/stone carver, stone breaker, cobbler/shoesmith/footwear artisan, mason, basket/mat/broom maker/coir weaver, doll and toy maker, barber, garland maker, washerman, tailor and fishing net maker.

The scheme aims to provide recognition, financial assistance, and skill development training to the above tradesmen all of whom are largely micro self-entrepreneurs.

The scheme also aims to provide toolkit incentive, credit support, incentives for digital transactions and marketing support with a whole range of attractive financial incentives.

The PM Vishwakarma Scheme is therefore a welcome step towards celebrating micro self-entrepreneurship in India. Traditional artisans and craftspeople play a vital role in the Indian economy, generating employment and preserving India's rich cultural heritage.

Entrepreneurship is the driving force of any economy. It is the spirit of innovation and risk-taking that leads to new businesses and new jobs. Micro self-entrepreneurs in a way play a vital role in the Indian economy.

Micro enterprises account for over 90 per cent of all enterprises in India and employ over 117 million people. Micro enterprises operate in a wide range of industries, including manufacturing, services and agriculture. They produce a variety of goods and services, such as food, clothing, handicrafts, and IT services.

Micro self-entrepreneurs are the unsung heroes of the Indian economy. Dignity of labour is the biggest challenge faced by them and are often looked down upon and their work not valued due to societal factors, stigma associated with manual labour and the lack of their attribution to economic growth. Each of them in some way or the other touch our daily lives and yet we do not realise them.

They serve important needs of the society, make our lives better and help in creating further livelihoods. Many of the enterprising smart and hardworking micro self-entrepreneurs have a potential to earn more than even the salaried in high paying jobs.

The government, industry, and social sector are making all out efforts to reach micro/self-entrepreneurs but it is not easy to reach them through conventional means. This is because many micro/self-entrepreneurs may not be digitally literate and maybe only comfortable in their native language.

This presents a unique challenge and also creates a unique opportunity to look into traditional ways of conducting traditional haats and melas. There is a need for using conventional voice-based technologies to reach out to them and connect them with their potential customers.

Governments, industry players, and social sector organisations are implementing a number of initiatives to promote the social and financial inclusion of micro self-entrepreneurs.

These initiatives include government programmes to provide micro self-entrepreneurs with access to credit, banking services, insurance, and other resources.

The industry initiatives to offer specialised products and services and social sector initiatives to provide them with training, awareness, and other support services can become the game changer for this segment.

They have been getting trained on their traditional crafts on the job through the Guru Shishya Parampara for generations.

However, in the present scenario it is important for them to be digitally and financially literate to grow their businesses.

Digital literacy can help them market their products and services online, manage their finances, and connect with other peers and customers. Financial literacy can help them make sound financial decisions, budget, save, and invest wisely.

Awareness of avenues for growth, such as selling online, exporting, and government programmes, can help artisans take their businesses to the next level. The need of the hour is a crisp and short two hours of training around financial and digital awareness to get going and enable them to aspire big.

E-commerce platforms from the startup ecosystem are also emerging to be important enablers for micro self-entrepreneurs, providing them with access to the market and other resources to help them start and grow their businesses.

The Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC) is part of the government's digital public infrastructure and has the potential to be a game changer for this segment. By providing them with access to a wider customer base, reducing their costs, improving their efficiency, and promoting fair competition.

These categories may seem to have small purchasing power, but collectively they can be very large from a scale point of view for all stakeholders.

The FMCG market had already tasted success long back through their one-rupee sachet offerings. Later, telecom saw major success through affordable handsets bundled with pre-paid offerings.

The PM Vishwakarma Scheme is a great example of how to reimagine the micro/self-entrepreneurs segment and help them grow through enablement and recognition.

It is time for the industry, academia, skilling ecosystem, and philanthropies to recognise, celebrate and engage with this important segment of micro self-entrepreneurs in India to trigger economic growth and livelihoods of all.

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