June 18, 2017 (LBO) - A tendency to look to the government for solutions as well as practical constraints like high interest rates and lack of business skills like marketing, academics who are helping improving management skills in the country said.
"Countries are built by people not governments," S A Amaratunga, Dean of the faculty of Management Studies and Commerce of Sri Lanka's University of Sri Jayawardanapura told reporters.
"The Government is there to facilitate businesses and industries, not to give subsidies (sahanadara). Research has shown that subsidies are a trap. The more subsidies you give the more people expect it.”
He was speaking to reporters on Promoting an Entrepreneurial Culture in Sri Lanka.
Shyaman Udayanga, Head of Department of Entrepreneurship at the university said entrepreneurs are the people who would take risks for his or her investments.
Sri Lankans have become used to a culture of getting government handouts and interventions for each and everything over many years.
People ask the government for everything and expect the government to give solution for everything which is hardly seen in more successful countries, such as the so-called developed nations.
"When you give so many subsidies people or businesses they start depending on the government and lose their power of control," senior lecturer P N Weerasinge said.
"So it is obvious a government will have the power of control. This has to change and to do that the country should have more entrepreneurs.”
Udayanga said prospective entrepreneurs also faced practical difficulties like tight regulations and difficulties in getting credit.
"A person who goes to bank to borrow a lone to start a business will end up in working in an office or a factory," Udayanga said.
"Why? Because local banks require many documents and guarantors to take a loan which discourage anyone."
He said in the UK or Singapore it was much easier to get business credit.
Sri Lanka also does not have venture capital funding unlike in countries like the US, they said. Though it has started in a small way, it is yet to pick up they said. Sri Lanka has about half a million of small and medium businesses according to research findings, the Chairman of the Business Development Center of the University of Sri Jayawardanapura, Premasiri Gamage said.
About 80 percent of Sri Lanka's small and medium enterproses are in the western province, Gamage said. About 75 percent of jobs are generated in the SME sector he said.
About 53 percent were depending imported resources, the survey found.
Analysts say in many fast growing countries, especially in East Asia, small and large companies have become part of a global supply chain moving beyond petty nationalism.
The origination of raw material or the final market is no longer determined by a geographical or political borders, but businesses act freely as if they are in one country, trying to do the best they can for their customers, making cheaper competitive products in the process.
Meanwhile Gamage said in a survey of businesses starting up, only 5 percent were successful after five years. About another 15 percent were surviving making small profits or losses.
However start-ups fail in many countries. In countries like the United States where entrepreneurs who come out with new ideas and commercialize them, sometime fail many times before succeeding.
In the IT industry for example people founders of successful companies have sometimes failed many times in the past or had been involved in several companies, and are known as 'serial entrepreneurs'.
According The Bureau of Labour Statistics in the US, about a quarter of the start-ups failed in the first year. By the fifth year more than half had failed.
Start-ups in countries like the US not only face domestic competition but also competition from abroad, as trade is much freer. But analysts say companies that succeed under those conditions then become globally competitive.
Meanwhile the university dons said there was shortage of essential skills to run businesses well.
"These people face many challenges like lack of marketing skills, high competition, high interest rates and high price of resources," Gamage said.
"So it is obvious people do go for government jobs or office jobs rather than taking all these risks."
"We need to change it. We want people to do their own business, develop new products and take risks. We will give you the knowledge on how to manage it successfully.
"It is hard to have a successful economy without Entrepreneurs."
The academics said they were prepared to teach potential entrepreneurs.
"We are ready to help,” P J Kumarasinghe, senior lecture said. “If anyone is interested in starting a business we are here to help them with knowledge of management, financial options and market.
"We do not want to sit and wait with our degrees and knowledge we gather in foreign universities and countries. We want you to take maximum out of us. We will come and help you freely if you want us to help.