News on Sunday

Sita Saminaden : “The economic environment is conducive for women”

Sita Saminaden, Director of Stephen Business School, talks to News on Sunday about how she realised her dream, the challenges facing small entrepreneurs and what she thinks must be done to further promote SMEs in Mauritius. 

Please, tell us more about yourself!
Some of my best memories go back to my college days at Queen Elizabeth College, where I learnt about rigour and discipline while at the same forging lifetime friendships. With an undergraduate degree from the University of Mauritius, I started off my professional career at Vecteur Synergik under the guidance of Shafick Osman. Then I followed an exposure in the world of advertising and I have here a special thought for CREAD. Progress in my career took me to MBC and subsequently McVision.  Stability in my professional life happened when I joined Mauritius Telecom, a unique organisation with a mosaic culture of its own. MT gave me multiple opportunities to enhance my competencies. I particularly treasure the experience I had as member of the Multiplay Project Office working on the conception and launch of the triple play now commonly known as Myt.  After some 18 years at Mauritius Telecom and a solid experience in the corporate world, I decided to live my passion, namely training and teaching.

How do you see the business environment for entrepreneurs?
Although many may say that there are plenty of incentives for entrepreneurs, yet there is still much to be done. The current business environment is conducive for people to launch their projects. Nevertheless people need to become more aware about facilities available and their implications. Emphasis on innovation and creativity must be highlighted. Entrepreurs have yet to consolidate their roles as integrating factors in the community.

What is your school about?
The launch of Stephen Business School was a dream come true. The school specialises in both award courses such as ACCA and Advanced Diplomas from SQA (Scottish Qualifications Office) and non-award courses, especially in the field of customer service, sales, entrepreneurship and leadership. Through SBS, my aim is to provide quality training and education to all those looking for self-improvement.

People need to become more aware about facilities available and their implications. Emphasis on innovation and creativity must be highlighted. Entrepreurs have yet to consolidate their roles as integrating factors in the community."

Are we seeing more women becoming entrepreneurs?
In the past years, there has been a significant increase in the number of women entrepreneurs. Women want to empower themselves: The main motivation for a woman to start a business is the willingness to succeed and acquire financial and personal autonomy. The economic environment has been conducive for women to set up their businesses. In general, I believe more than 60% of women entrepreneurs are in the manufacturing sector including textile, food products and handicrafts. The service sector, with businesses such as beauty parlours, travel agencies, spas, among others, also contains a significant number of women entrepreneurs.

Is it easy for SMEs to sustain in the long run?
SMEs have been facing many sustainability issues despite having competitive products being offered at attractive prices. The long run viability of SMEs can be challenged by many issues.  Lack of accounting knowledge: Undermining the role of accounting in day to day activities can put the financial survival of the organization in danger;  lack of proper record keeping: sometimes entrepreneurs are not conversant with good accounting practices which if implemented could bring improvements in operations; cash flow management: the nightmare of many entrepreneurs - giving too much credit to buyers can penalise the good health of the organisation;  lack of ICT usage - the emergence of ICT has changed the business environment. Information has to be computerised to establish a fast and beneficial link with customers and suppliers. And innovation is the way forward: If we don’t innovate and find customer solutions for ever changing customer problems, we will be phased out. 

The government’s objective is to foster a nation of entrepreneurs. What incentives do you propose in the wake of the forthcoming Budget?
I have too many proposals in mind. Let me give you a list of the most important. 

First of all, there should be increased access to adequate training. Entrepreneurs often have ideas that they wish to bring to life. Limitations as to appropriate techniques and concepts sometimes stop them to further progress - access to up to date training (increase in business related training) on a regional basis would be a plus.

Secondly, the eternal problem which is access to capital! We must provide increased access to capital - the recent but why not provide this facility to more entrepreneurs irrespective of gender? Simultaneously for all entrepreneurs benefiting from capital access it would be a must to get related training and hand holding as to how to manage the funds obtained. Third, we need more mentorship. While operating in Mauritius, I have had the opportunity to mentor people from Nigeria for two consecutive years in the context of a project set by the Tony Elumelu Foundation. Mentoring should be made more dynamic - linking successful entrepreneurs with their peers who now want to launch their business. Much is being done but lots remain to be covered.

We need measures to support governmental bodies and units in the organisation of national level competitions where entrepreneurs will be called to showcase their projects and get financial aid."

Fourth, increased access to legal advice. Once entrepreneurs launch their projects, there are many challenges which await them - and some namely in the legal field. For example, when creating a partnership or availing from venture capital, what could be the legal implications and how to properly draft a suitable agreement? Another example could be the management of trademarks. Access to legal counseling is a must.

Fifth, we need more favourable measures for the export sector, such as increased facilities for entrepreneurs to export their products and higher penetration of the international market. Sixth, enhance competition. We need measures to support governmental bodies and units in the organisation of national level competitions where entrepreneurs will be called to showcase their projects and get financial aid. Seventh, increased exposure. Entrepreneurs should be given the opportunity to know more about worldwide trends and new projects being launched internationally - interactions with  entrepreneurs, from other countries, during international exchanges or conventions, can be the source of much innovation.

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