D. D. Mali *   

In India efforts to promote and develop entrepreneurship among the youth began with Industrial Campaign during the early 1960s. It has now taken the form of a nationwide movement. While Gujarat is credited as being the first state in the country to make planned and systematic efforts in entrepreneurship development, in the North East India, Assam is the pioneer in this field. In 1973, Assam started a novel experiment on entrepreneurship development by setting up district level agencies known as entrepreneurial motivational training centres (EMTC) to identify, select, and train prospective entrepreneurs and provide them all support services to start and run their enterprises. The EMTCs did commendable work in promoting entrepreneurship in the state during the early years of their functioning. After more than 25 years of their operation the EMTCs have now been merged with District Industries Centres. Thus, an important chapter in the history of entrepreneurship movement in the North East is closed forever.  

Training Organisations  
There are now other agencies such as Small Industries Services Institutes (SISIs) and branch SISIs, North Eastern Industrial and Technical Consultancy Organisation (NEITCO), North Eastern Industrial Consultant (NECON), and National Small Industries Corporation (NSIC). In addition, in 1993 the Government of India set up Indian Institute of Entrepreneurship (IIE), a national institute at Guwahati to act as catalyst on entrepreneurship development with its focus on the North East. Entrepreneurship development has become a major concern of all these organisations and institutions, apart from their other regular activities. Among other agencies, the State Bank of India is one of the first few organisations to take up Entrepreneurship Development Programme (EDP) in the North East. It, however, stopped to organise training for entrepreneurs for about one and half decades but has again started a fresh initiative from 2001 to train prospective entrepreneurs in the region. Rotary Club of Guwahati South, Faraday Bicentenary Science Park of Cotton College, Assam Engineering College, Assam Engineering Institute etc. also occasionally organise training for promotion of entrepreneurship. The implementation of Prime Minister's Rozgar Yojana (PMRY) from 1993 led the District Industries Centres (DICs), Small Industries Development Corporations, National Productivity Council (NPC), small industries associations and non-governmental organisations, consultants etc. to take up training of PMRY beneficiaries. There are now voluntary organisations also who are directly involved in promotion of entrepreneurship through training and support. But the major role in the entrepreneurship development in the states of the North East is still played by NEITCO, NECON, NSIC and IIE.  

North Eastern Council and Entrepreneurship Development  
The North Eastern Council (NEC), set up in 1972, recognised the important role of entrepreneurship in the economic and industrial development of the region. One of the first important works of it was to get a study done on the entrepreneurial and managerial needs of the region through SIET Institute (now NISIET). Based on the study the NEC took a number of steps for promoting entrepreneurship in the region. In 1985, the NEC drew up an ambitious plan to train and develop 5000 entrepreneurs during the seventh plan (1985-90). In its efforts Industrial Development Bank of India (IDBI) and its sister organisations, Industrial Finance Corporation of India (IFCI) and Industrial Credit and Investment Corporation of India (ICICI) also participated. As against the target of training 5000 entrepreneurs the four organisations, namely NEITCO, NISIET, NECON and EDII together could train 3609 participants. An evaluation study by NEC (1990) revealed that overall rate of success of EDPs organised during the 7th Plan (1985-90) was 20.88 per cent.  

The initiative taken by the NEC in 1985 still continues. In its efforts there are now new partners. SIDBI also started participating in entrepreneurship development efforts, particularly in respect to rural and women entrepreneurs. During April 1990 to March 1996 NEC and IDBI and NEC and SIDBI together sponsored 212 EDPs in the North East in which 5375 participants participated. An evaluation study of these programmes revealed that 25.2 per cent of the participants trained could set up their enterprises. Now the Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) have also started to participate in rural entrepreneurship development programme.  

Apart from NEC, IDBI and SIDBI and KVIC, there are now several other organisations that are supporting initiative for promotion of new entrepreneurs and/or creation of awareness of entrepreneurial opportunities in the North East. Among them are the offices of the Development Commissioner (SSI) under the Union Ministry of SSI and Agro and Rural Industries, Department of Science and Technology with focus on promoting science and technology entrepreneurs, Union Ministry of Non-Conventional Energy Sources for promoting entrepreneurship in non-conventional energy sector, NABARD for promoting rural and women entrepreneurship, Council for Advancement of People's Action and Rural Technologies (CAPART) under the Union Ministry of Rural Development, for involving voluntary organisations in entrepreneurship development effort. 

IIE and Entrepreneurship Development 
IIE has been following a multi-pronged approach in entrepreneurship development - organising and conducting training for prospective entrepreneurs, (Promotion of New Entrepreneurs), for existing entrepreneurs (Growth of Existing Entrepreneurs), for personnel from promotional and developmental organisations, (Creation of Entrepreneurial Environment), for educated sons and daughters of entrepreneurs, businessmen and artisans (Continuity of Family Business) and students and teachers from school, college and university and technical institutes (Entrepreneurship Education). Each group of programmes is meant for separate target group and is aimed at achieving specific objectives. Programmes for students, started in 1997, are aimed at creating awareness of entrepreneurial opportunities and interest in entrepreneurial career among students. Later on the Institute started teachers' programmes to involve them in creating awareness of opportunities for self-employment and entrepreneurial career among the students. Besides, the teachers are also expected to guide and counsel students for career in entrepreneurship and self-employment. The Institute has gone a step ahead to induce the college and university teachers to set up information and career guidance cell (ICGC) in their respective institutions, pending introduction of entrepreneurship as an element of academic curriculum. 

Besides, organising and conducting training for different target groups, the Institute has also been experimenting different approaches on entrepreneurship development. During November 1996 to November 1998 the Institute adopted an area approach (known as Rural Industries Programme or RIP) on entrepreneurship development in Nagaon District of Assam with the objective to promote 100 entrepreneurs in the district in a period of two years. The experiment made with support from SIDBI was implemented in two phases - in the first phase it identified a list of about 110 viable projects in the district. It also set up a field office at Nagaon, which identified and selected prospective entrepreneurs and trained them. In the second phase it provided post-training support to the trainees. At the end of March 1999, eighty seven trainees could set up enterprises, some of them on their own and many with bank finance. Based on the results of this experiment the Institute has now taken up another RIP in the Barpeta district of Assam. It also made an experiment of a 12 week turnkey EDP to improve the success rate of EDPs. This turnkey approach has now been adopted by NEITCO and NECON also. Besides, the Institute also designed a Crash Course on Entrepreneurship for graduate and postgraduate youth in search of opportunities for self-employment or salaried employment. This experiment revealed that awareness creation of entrepreneurial opportunities could go a long way in the promotion of entrepreneurship and self-employment among educated youth in the North East. The Institute has also started a 12 week certificate course in Entrepreneurship and Management for graduate and post graduate youth for promoting new entrepreneurs and developing entrepreneurial managers that are now in demand from industry and others alike. 

Apart from training the Institute also made a number of research studies to enrich the knowledge of the critical factors in the process of entrepreneurship development. 

Social and Institutional Issues 
Training and research done by the Institute brought out a number of social and institutional issues that need to be addressed to have better impact of the efforts to promote entrepreneurship. Socio-cultural environment and values have an important bearing in the emergence of entrepreneurship in any society. While the individual may like to take up entrepreneurial career, the family may not like to encourage him/her to take up such a career. It is a fact that majority of parents want their children to take up salaried employment. Preference for salaried employment is not peculiar to the states of the North East. This can be found in other states also. But preference for salaried employment in the North East is very high. There are, of course, youth taking up entrepreneurial career against the wishes of the parents. But their number is very small. 

It is not the family pressure or family expectation alone for which the youth in the North East have developed a preference for salaried employment. It is also socio-cultural environment that has been a hindrance in the growth of entrepreneurship in the region. It is social status that counts most while making a choice of a career. 

Organisational Environment 
In addition to socio-cultural environment, organisational environment has also much to do with the emergence of entrepreneurship in a society. There are many organisations and institutions to provide support to entrepreneurs such as training institutes, small industry development corporations, marketing organisations, consultancy organisations and banks and financial institutions. Apart from these organisations, there are regulatory organisations to give clearance, say for construction of factory shed, or for taking up entrepreneurial activities in certain line of activity, say drugs and pharmaceutical units, or organisation to supply of power, electricity board/department etc. All organisations have their policy and programmes to provide necessary help and support to entrepreneurs. However, there is much to be desired in the support provided by the support organisations. Getting clearance for construction of factory shed or permission for starting specific line of activity or even for getting power connection takes unduly long time. Among various organisations banks and financial institutions have an important role to play in the development of entrepreneurship in the region. But bank finance continues to remain a major problem for the entrepreneurs. There are marketing organisations to provide marketing support. There are also marketing schemes to help the entrepreneurs. However, the organisational climate in support organisations is yet to be entrepreneur-friendly. The DICs have also not been able to function as a single window clearance agency. 

Emerging Trends 
The efforts to promote and develop entrepreneurship during the last more than two and half decades have resulted in some changes in the entrepreneurial scenario in the North East. Again, more and more women are now taking up entrepreneurial career that was not found even in late 1980s and there are now women entrepreneurs associations in the region. Colleges and Universities are gradually taking interest to create awareness of career option in entrepreneurial activities among the students. Many colleges have already set up information and career guidance cells (ICGC) to guide and counsel students for career in entrepreneurial activities and self-employment and getting their teachers trained for this purpose. Universities have also been considering introduction of entrepreneurship as an element in academic curriculum. Dibrugarh University and Guwahati University have already taken steps to introduce entrepreneurship in post-graduate commerce course. Entrepreneurs have been emerging in new areas, particularly in service sector. Many new entrepreneurs are taking up franchise for being business owners. The region does have entrepreneurs, may be micro entrepreneurs. This can be seen from the fact that it has two important sectors, namely, handloom and handicraft sectors. Women weavers predominate in the vast handloom sector in the region. In fact the highest number of amateur weavers in the country is concentrated in the North East. The existence of the artisan sectors is a positive condition for promoting entrepreneurship. Besides new entrepreneurs are also emerging. The average size of units that are being set up by the new entrepreneurs is with Rs.1 to Rs.2 lakh investment. The types of enterprises that are emerging are still traditional and conventional like weaving cotton and silk fabrics. 
Conclusion : 
Beginning from the early 1970s, there have been planned and systematic efforts to promote entrepreneurship in the North East, initially by the Government of Assam and later on by the North Eastern Council. The efforts still continue. But more efforts are still required to promote and develop entrepreneurship in the region to bring it at par with the level of development of the rest of the country. In any approach to entrepreneurship development in the North East, due care is to be given to the removal of the problems and also for using the potential for entrepreneurship. This will mean taking effective steps for creation of awareness of entrepreneurial opportunities among the youth, developing their knowledge and skill and raising their level of motivation for entrepreneurial career. In addition, efforts are also needed for creation of an entrepreneurial environment in the support system and social environment. There will be more opportunities for small entrepreneurs in business and service sectors than in the industry sector in future partly because of economic liberalisation and partly due to development of information technology. Greater emphasis should be laid on developing entrepreneurship in these sectors. Besides, there is also need to give due emphasis on women entrepreneurship, especially from SC/ST and OBC categories. In order to create an environment for entrepreneurship it is also necessary to introduce entrepreneurship as an element of the academic curriculum. These steps may help in the emergence of entrepreneurship in the North East.


Courtesy : Kurukshetra - A journal on Rural Development  
* Shri D.D. Mali is Director, Indian Institute of Entrepreneurship, Guwahati