LAHORE - A large number of small and medium entrepreneurs visited a day-long SME Finance Mela and shown keen interest in all products displayed by the commercial banks and financial institutions.

Managing Director of SBP Muhammad Ashraf Khan and LCCI President MianNaumanKabir inaugurated the SME Finance Mela which was jointly organized by LCCI and SBP. LCCI Senior Vice President Mian Rehman Aziz Chan, Vice President Haris Ateeq, former office-bearers and Executive Committee members were present on the occasion.

Over 22 commercial banks and other financial institutions including Faysal Bank, Al Baraka Bank, Askari Bank, Allied Bank, MCB, Bank Al-Habib, Habib Metropolitan Bank, State Bank of Pakistan, Dubai Islamic Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, Bank of Punjab, Bank Alfalah, National Bank of Pakistan, JS Bank, Sindh Bank, United Bank Limited, Habib Bank Limited, Bank Islami, Meezan Bank, Soneri Bank, MCB Islamic and Bank of Khyber showcased their latest and available products and services in order to cater to the business financial needs of the SMEs. Muhammad Ashraf Khan said that the basic objective of the event is to create awareness among the Lahore based SMEs regarding available products and services offered by the banks and financial institutions. He said that the role of Lahore Chamber is important in SMEs development.

He said that Rs. 37 billion have been spent on Kamyab Jawan Program. He said that Rs. 56 billion have been spent on ApnaGhar Scheme while Rs. 1 billion have been given to the women entrepreneurs.

LCCI President Mian Nauman Kabir said that the main purpose of organizing this event is to provide first-hand information to the members of business community, particularly young and emerging entrepreneurs about the various financing products being offered by commercial banks to the SMEs. He said that being the premier business support organization of the country, LCCI is well aware of the importance of SME sector in our economy. According to estimates, there are more than 5.2 million SMEs in Pakistan which contribute around 40% to our GDP and 25% to our exports. SMEs are the largest contributor to employment generation in the country as they account for around 80% of non-agriculture sector employment.

Mian Nauman Kabir said that realizing the economic importance of SMEs, LCCI has always been advocating for improving the efficiency, competitiveness and productivity of the SME sector and also highlighting the barriers to SME growth. He said that the biggest obstacle to the SME growth is the in-adequate access to finance. It is worrying fact that SMEs only get 6.5% of private sector credit in Pakistan. Because of this obstacle, the SME sector is not able to undertake technological up-gradation and improve its managerial capacity. Consequently, the SME sector produces low value added products and is not able to enhance its export competitiveness by moving up the technology ladder. “It goes without saying that availability of sufficient working capital plays vital role in viability and longevity of any business entity. Lack of adequate access to finance in SME sector often leads to production shortfall and liquidity crunch that can quickly put a small business out of operation”, Mian Nauman Kabir added.

He informed the participants of the inaugural ceremony that LCCI has always advocated for relaxing the collateral requirement to improve the share of SMEs in private sector financing. He appreciated that in line with LCCI’s recommendation, the State Bank has recently introduced the SME Asaan Finance for provision of collateral-free financing up to Rs. 10 million for the SME sector. He hoped that the commercial banks would play their due role by rolling out innovative financing products and make this scheme a huge success. Mian Nauman Kabir mentioned that under the new SME Policy 2021, the key performance indicators to be achieved by 2025 include increase in SME credit to Rs.800 Billion and increase in number of borrowers to 700,000.

He hoped that SME Finance Mela will prove to be a landmark initiative in realizing these objectives and help us transition into a new era of SME led economic growth and development.

LCCI Senior Vice President MianRehman Aziz Chan said that Lahore Chamber has always been voicing to improve the economic efficiency of the SME sector and also highlighting the major barriers to SME’s growth.

He said that financing hurdles due to low access to finance, inadequate management on account of least professional training, Ineffective Business Planning because of limited understanding of external factors and low productivity owing to outdated technology etc. should be removed.

LCCI Vice President HarisAteeq said that the initiative of organizing SME Finance Mela has been taken to ensure that progressive SMEs may acquire sufficient working capital from banks so that they may have more flexibility, being able to satisfy their customers’ orders, expand their businesses, and invest in new products and services.

He hoped that this joint effort of State Bank of Pakistan and Lahore Chamber of Commerce & Industry will result in paving the way for having easy access to finance for the companies operating at small and medium levels.