North East clusters forging ahead

Unified growth, the cluster way


Unified growth, the cluster way


Guwahati, June 23: Business clusters of the Northeast are forging ahead, registering phenomenal growth rates and volume within a relatively short span.

A cluster is a sector-specific geographical group of micro and/or small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), service providers and institutions having common opportunities and threats. In other words, it is a concentration of economic enterprises, producing a typical product or service or a complementary range of products or services within a given geographical area.

It is the centrepiece of a new approach focussed on increasing public private partnerships for creating support systems for micro, small and medium enterprises.

Several enterprise development organisations and institutions of the region are focussing on this approach, given its potential for growth.

The Indian Institute of Entrepreneurship (IIE), Guwahati, directly operates 16 clusters, which have registered sales volumes of Rs 22 crore in a year.

“It is a big business activity and now buyers are also coming up to enter into buy-back arrangements,” Sriparna Baruah, who looks after clusters at the institute, said.

The clusters of the region are also in the limelight at the national level.

Sources said CRISIL would undertake a rating initiative for the region’s clusters. This development can be deemed important, as it has not been done elsewhere in the country.

Moreover, three clusters from the Northeast have been selected from among a group of 25 clusters across the country under the National Innovation Council. The council was set up by the Prime Minister to prepare a roadmap for innovations in the decade 2010-2020, which has been declared as the decade of innovation with focus on inclusive growth.
The eri cluster of Umden in Meghalaya, being developed by the IIE, has been selected for further interventions under this initiative.

Another three clusters, which may be taken up for development under this initiative, are the brass and bell metal cluster in Hajo, Assam, the cane and bamboo cluster in Barpeta, Assam and the cane and bamboo cluster in Agartala, Tripura.

The best thing about clusters is that they give rise to collective benefits. For instance, clusters usually have spontaneous inflow of suppliers of raw materials, components and machinery or availability of workers with sector-specific skills. They also act as catalysts in creation of specialised technical, administrative and financial service providers. Last but not the least, they create a conducive environment for development of co-operation between firms as well as public and private institutions to promote local production, innovation and collective learning.

Baruah said one of the major problems encountered initially was the lack of credit. “We talked to bankers and others that has now resulted in credit linkages,” she said.

Apart from the institute, there are a number of clusters operated by different institutions across the region, which are doing good business.

The Assam government has also shown interest in the cluster development approach and will be identifying traditional industries like handicraft, textiles and other small sectors. These will be developed under the “rural business hub” concept, involving the private sector and panchayats. For non-traditional items, clusters will be identified and required common facilities developed.

The Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Institute, Guwahati is supporting a 60-member knife-manufacturing cluster at Karanga in Jorhat district — Dakhin Jorhat Karanga Komar Shilpa Somobai Limited. It works on pruning knives for domestic use and has registered a good turnover.

The Cane and Bamboo Technology Centre is also developing bamboo clusters across the region.

The Dubapara cane and bamboo cluster under the Ambedkar Hastashilp Vikas Yojana in Goalpara district has more than 700 artisans and 70 self-help groups are supporting the strong work force.

A cluster conclave, a buyer-seller meet, was held in Guwahati from August 29 to 31 last year and was the only event in the country that focussed on micro and small enterprise clusters. Products from 19 different clusters from the eight states of the region as well as three clusters from Uttarakhand were exhibited at the meet.

“Skills have been upgraded in various clusters, which is leading to better product quality and helping the product reach newer markets” she said.

“A lot of product development has taken place in the region’s clusters. What we want to ensure is quality and after that is ensured, sales will automatically pick up,” S. Deka, who looks after clusters at the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Institute, said.


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