How Indian SME Associations are Tackling COVID-19

The global COVID-19 pandemic has fast become the biggest global event of our lifetimes. Our experiences―as customers, employees, citizens, humans―have forever changed, and our attitudes and behaviors are also changing as a result. Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus. The Corona Virus outbreak is a human tragedy, affecting millions of people worldwide, and also having a huge impact on the global economy.

As governments make significant interventions in response to the coronavirus, businesses are rapidly adjusting to the changing needs of their people, customers and suppliers, while navigating the financial and operational challenges. With every industry, function and geography affected, the amount of potential change to think through can be daunting.

We contacted several industry associations to find out what they’re doing for their members, and how they see things panning out. Here’s what they had to say.

Taloja Industries Association

-Satish Shetty, President

Coronavirus is a dreaded disease. We feel Shutdown was the right way to control spread of the epidemic. Government has taken strong steps to manage the Epidemic. Those Industries, which belong to Essential services, are doing their best to incorporate all Hygiene standards for their employees, as recommended by Government. It is important to Educate Industries about Do’s and Dont’s of Covid19.

Arrange for donations to help arrange food for impoverished citizens. Help Industries, under Essential Services category, to restart their business, with help of Government authorities.

Disseminate important Government circulars, related to Covid19, to Industries. Answer their queries on the subject.

Also, we feel that all declarations taken by Government, until now, are mainly restricted to benefit the large and organized sector of the Industry. The problem of the unorganized sector of Micro & Small Industry (MSME), which is spread widely, is yet to be addressed.

Hence, we find it important that the need of the hour is for extending support & provide relief to Micro & Small Medium Industry (MSME)”

 KASSIA

-R. Raju President

All our members and Kassia welcome 21 days lockdown decision by our PM to save our lives. Our association is working towards solving problems of SMEs in particularly between GOK. Thirdly we have sent our request to FM and PM to take some initiatives to save our SMEs.

 Vadodara chamber of Commerce & Industry

–Himanshu Patel, Hon Secretary

Covid-19 is a big calamity for all and the impact will be long lasting. Even during war times, we have never had this situation. In fact, this is the first time ever in history of our country that the entire country is under lockdown. Our members are all good citizens and understand that this is an unprecedented situation. So their first response has been to support their people and the administration in these times.

They are however, afraid that many of them will not be able to manage the extended lockdown and will be forced to downsize and in some cases even close down.

Our member’s first priority right now is survival and getting back to work. To tide over this difficulty, our association has taken many initiatives:

  1. a) Support and Community outreach by providing food and other essential items to the needy in and around our Makarpura estate.
  2. b) Work with the administration to create awareness and support our members with passes and permission so that they can do the most import work of payment of wages and salary on time.
  3. c) All our members are MSMEs and we have made several representations to state and central level for the needs of our members.

Our first request to the government is that we should be allowed to start work. Without work we will not be able to survive.We understand that the work has to start with new hygiene conditions like use of mask, sanitizer, social distances, etc. If we do not start work, then we do not have deep pockets like bigger units do and will have to close down. We as an association can help in establishing good practices.

Second, while RBI has given moratorium, we will still be incurring the interest cost. It is impossible for our members to bear this cost along with the cost of lockdown.

Third and most important support for payment of wages under ESIC.Our argument is that if the person was sick, he would have got 50% pay from ESIIC.This loss of work is also due to health reasons and hence all our workers should get the benefit. This contribution is made for such difficult times and if govt. is not supporting, then what is the use of contribution towards ESIC?

Also PF relaxation is not practical.If a unit has 30 workers, then at least 4 or 5 workers would be paid more than Rs. 15,000. Hence, the unit does not meet the 90% criteria. This is very wrong criteria and if govt. is really thinking about helping the industry, they should immediately remove this.

Federation of M.P. Chambers of Commerce & Industry

–Dr.Goswami, President

We have to face this challenge strongly and united. All members have been advised to instruct their workforce to maintain proper hygiene standards and sterilize their facility. We expect government to Waiver minimum charges of electricity bills, and the board should charge bills on actual basis. There should bedeferment of tax filing dates and relaxation in rate of interest.

Different associations are therefore at various stages of activities for their members. Some, like the textiles industry is under complete lockdown, like the Textile Jute Association in West Bengal.

B Swaminathan