National folk festivals can help boost rural SMEs

National folk festivals in Pakistan can become the best business hotspots for the rural SMEs, and their promotion at both national and international levels can fetch a handsome revenue for the state coffers, said Federal Minister for National Heritage and Culture Jamal Shah while talking to WealthPK.

Talking about the national folk festivals or cultural trade fairs, he said artisans and entrepreneurs/SMEs across the country usually join them to showcase their products.

About 68% of Pakistan’s total population resides in rural areas and these platforms offer a great scope to earn opportunities and a sustainable livelihood for them.

Jamal said that these fairs play a significant role in improving the rural economy, especially the cottage industry. They are a sort of rural/local trade fairs offering a good platform to showcase the local products. From here, the small-scale producers/local artisans get direct access to both urban and international markets.

Continuing the discussion, he said, “These festivals are a nice way to lead the rural communities to earn a high income. Participation in these fairs encourages the rural artisans and craftsmen to improve their skills and products. They also get access to a diverse group of stakeholders, producers, government officials, and buyers. This type of linkage creates a kind of network that brings new opportunities not only for the rural entrepreneurs but for the other SMEs as well.

“Culinary experts are also a part of these fairs. From almost all parts of the country, they join these fairs, show their skills and get business. Cultural preservation is also a part of this type of semi-cultural cottage industry. Promotion of rural enterprises and cottage industries is a source of job creation, unemployment reduction, and poverty alleviation.”

Jamal further said females play a vital role in the cottage industry and rural economic activities. They also bring their products to these festivals and get new business linkages. Successful participation in national folk festivals also boosts the credibility of cottage industries to get government loans and grants to expand their maneuvers. Government support is also attracted by these activities to gain good incentives, subsidies, and infrastructure development.

The coordination of all SMEs, government institutions, non-government agencies, and other stakeholders is important to make these festivals successful by monitoring their weak points. Capacity-building policies can also be framed and necessary training imparted after proper screening to strengthen this sector. 

The strong sides can be enhanced more by proper presentation, marketing, and value addition. These festivals are also a source of fostering cultural exchange and boosting tourism, added the federal minister.

Sharing his views about the importance of the National Folk Festival, Zulfiqar Ahmad, head of media and communication at the Rawalpindi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (RCCI), said this type of festival — called "Lok Mela" in the local language — is a potential place to showcase the village crafts and other SMEs. These types of festivals or expos are arranged for the cottage industry. They bring opportunities for artisans, SMEs, and entrepreneurs working on a small scale, especially females. Like in other countries, spots should be fixed for them in all the provinces, including the federal capital. It will encourage the rural sector to show their skills and to earn a sustainable livelihood. 
It is important to focus on the cottage industries in the country because they are labor-intensive and help reduce unemployment.
At least 80% of the rural population depends on the cottage industry. It requires less capital but provides work opportunities at a large scale. Pakistan should focus on boosting this sector by promoting the local festivals in the form of trade fairs with joyful activities to attract more and more people.

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