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Typical Problems Faced by Small Businesses

Small scale industries are at a distinct disadvantage as compared to large scale industries. The scale of operations, availability of finance, ability to use modern technology, procurement of raw materials are some of these areas. This gives rise to several problems. Most of these problems can be attributed to the small size of their business, which prevents them from taking advantages, which accrue to large business organisations. However, the problems faced are not similar to all the categories of small businesses. For instance, in the case of small ancillary units, the major problems include delayed payments, uncertainty of getting orders from the parent units and frequent changes in production processes. The problems of traditional small scale units include remote location with less developed infrastructural facilities, lack of managerial talent, poor quality, traditional technology and inadequate availability of finance.

The problems of exporting small scale units include lack of adequate data on foreign markets, lack of market intelligence, exchange rate fluctuations, quality standards, and pre-shipment finance. In general the small businesses are faced with the following problems:

  • Finance: One of the severe problems faced by SSIs is that of nonavailability of adequate finance to carry out its operations. Generally a small business begins with a small capital base. Many of the units in the small sector lack the credit worthiness required to raise as capital from the capital markets. As a result, they heavily depend on local financial resources and are frequently the victims of exploitation by the money lenders. These units frequently suffer from lack of adequate working capital, either due to delayed payment of dues to them or locking up of their capital in unsold stocks. Banks also do not lend money without adequate collateral security or guarantees and margin money, which many of them are not in a position to provide.
  • Raw materials: Another major problem of small business is the procuremen t of raw materials. If the required materials are not available, they have to compromise on the quality or have to pay a high price to get good quality materials. Their bargaining power is relatively low due to the small quantity of purchases made by them. Also, they cannot afford to take the risk of buying in bulk as they have no facilities to store the materials. Because of general scarcity of metals, chemicals and extractive raw materials in the economy, the small scale sector suffers the most. This also means a waste of production capacity for the economy and loss of further units.
  • Managerial skills: Small business is generally promoted and operated by a single person, who may not possess all the managerial skills required to run the business. Many of the small business entrepreneurs possess sound technical knowledge but are less successful in marketing the output. Moreover, they may not find enough time to take care of all functional activities. At the same time they are not in a position to afford professional managers.
  • Labour: Small business firms cannot afford to pay higher salaries to the employees, which affects employee willingness to work hard and produce more. Thus, productivity per employee is relatively low and employee turn over is generally high. Because of lower remuneration offered, attracting talented people is a major problem in small business organisations. Unskilled workers join for low remuneration but training them is a time consuming process. Also, unlike large organisations, division of labour cannot be practised, which results in lack of specialisation and concentration.
  • Marketing: Marketing is one of the most important activities as it generates revenue. Effective marketing of goods requires a thorough understanding of the customer’s needs and requirements. In most cases, marketing is a weaker area of small organisations. These organisations have, therefore, to depend excessively on middlemen, who at times exploit them by paying low price and delayed payments. Further, direct marketing may not be feasible for small business firms as they lack the necessary infrastructure.
  • Quality: Many small business organisations do not adhere to desired standards of quality. Instead they concentrate on cutting the cost and keeping the prices low. They do not have adequate resources to invest in quality research and maintain the standards of the industry, nor do they have the expertise to upgrade technology. In fact maintaining quality is their weakest point, when competing in global markets.
  • Capacity utilisation: Due to lack of marketing skills or lack of demand, many small business firms have to operate below full capacity due to which their operating costs tend to increase. Gradually this leads to sickness and closure of the business.
  • Technology: Use of outdated technology is often stated as serious lacunae in the case of small industries, resulting in low productivity and uneconomical production.
  • Sickness: Prevalence of sickness in small industries has become a point of worry to both the policy makers and the entrepreneurs. The causes of sickness are both internal and external. Internal problems include lack of skilled and trained labour and managerial and marketing skills. Some of the external problems include delayed payment, shortage of working capital, inadequate loans and lack of demand for their products.
  • Global competition: Apart from the problems stated above small businesses are not without fears, especially in the present context of liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation (LPG) policies being followed by several countries across the world. Let us look into the areas where small businesses feel threatened with the onslaught of global competition.
    • Competition is not only from medium and large industries, but also from multinational companies which are giants in terms of their size and business volumes. Opening up of trade results in cut throat competition for small scale units.
    • It is difficult to withstand the quality standards, technological skills, financial creditworthiness, managerial and marketing capabilities of the large industries and multinationals.
    • There is limited access to markets of developed countries due to the stringent requirements of quality certification like ISO 9000.

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