Here I was; running late as usual! The ever stretchable Indian Time had consistently proved itself to be an Achilles heel in epochs whenever I had a flight to catch. My meeting had taken longer than expected; or was it expected? Let’s park that discussion for another day.
So, with a sprint in my step and natural athleticism to boot, I was rapidly making my way through the boisterous hordes at the airport. Twisting and turning while snaking my way, I crashed with some serious impact into a forlorn gentleman…and yes, inexplicably, realms of paper were sent airborne through the aisle with a determined purpose of getting lost. Not to mention, I had sent the gentleman hurtling, while I acrobatically slammed into a water dispenser. The chaos was complete…people staring me down; water everywhere; a bruised dignity and a very angry man trying to find the papers that I sent into orbit. All very disconsolate!
Sheepishly, I excused myself and continued on my merry sprint to the check-in counter.
Cut to the flight. I finally make my way to my seat to outrageously find that I am seated next to the gentleman that I sent careering 5 feet in the air moments ago! Wow! Someone up there was out to get me with a vengeance!
Notwithstanding, I put on my brightest smile with my most cheerful disposition, struck my hand out and said Hello. What followed was a series of apologies that Ramesh seemed to accept. Ah! And yes! His name was Ramesh. With our seatbelts secured, and flight midair, we settled in to a conversation that deeply impacted and altered my thinking over the days to come.
Ramesh was a SME. A worried one at that! He began his saga explaining how the SMEs have traditionally remained an unorganized sector, with ownership controlled by the family or a close group of associates. He went on to further explain how SMEs are characterized by use of cash to procure raw materials. This mechanism had left him with little or no paper trail of transactions, thereby drastically affecting his chances of raising working capital that he so desperately needed to expand his business. He got me to realize the harsh reality of the SME sector where the mainstream banks shy away from funding SMEs such as Ramesh! Now, add the really bleak possibility of him connecting and introducing his business to prospective buyers to hasten the payment cycle. A rather forlorn state of affairs!
Being a second generation entrepreneur, his average day revolved around sifting through the pile of ‘leads’ that were stacked-up in his inbox. Half a day spent just trying to reach the ‘buyers’ that were either fictional or too busy to connect! So, there he was, back at square one four hours into his day?! The second half of his day was spent in sending RFQs for buying the raw materials for his factory. A day’s work with no output!! Only time, money and effort spent on trying to reach buyers and sellers. Where was the business?? How was he to optimize his time and manpower if he and his staff were ‘trying’ to find the right products and buyers all through the day??
This thought resonated in my brain and eventually put my mind into overdrive! Wait! I said…..’Maybe we have a solution!’