The growth of Bangladesh has been significantly aided by the contribution of micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises over the last several decades. Most of the small and medium-sized business owners are themselves at the bottom of the social and economic ladder while making major contributions to many diverse areas of the nation. They often have to deal with difficult financial hardships, moreover, their lack of education and knowledge limits their potential even more.
Inspira Advisory and Consulting Limited has been working closely with several organizations, industry experts, bi-lateral donors and government stakeholders in designing and implementing relevant services contributing to SMEs. To that end, Inspira collaborated with water.org to provide appropriate support to SMEs working in the Water and Sanitation sector. The purpose of the initiative was to provide early-stage WASH enterprises with the facilities they need to create and refine their products and services, promote them, and break into the growing market.
Bangladesh has been attempting ever since its founding to improve its water, sanitation, and hygiene systems. Even still, there are certain deficiencies. There is a significant portion of the population in Bangladesh that does not yet have access to adequate quantities of safe and reliable drinking water. According to the Joint Monitoring Program Report (JMP) of 2017, only 56% of the population has access to safely managed water. And just 55.9 per cent of the population has access to proper sanitation. Many individuals still lack access to adequate sanitary services. Within the WSS industry, Bangladesh is home to a considerable number of small and medium-sized businesses that each provide a unique set of services. Those who are involved in the maintenance of the local water network, the production and sale of sanitary goods, the cleaning of pits and tanks, and similar activities are all considered to be the WSS service providers. They are making a significant contribution to the WASH sector of the nation by providing these services, and as a result, many people especially those who are at the Base of Pyramid, receive water and sanitation facilities that they would not have had access to in the absence of these services. They have the potential to further enhance their service if they are supplied with financial, technical, and marketing assistance. As a consequence of this, they will not only be able to raise the quality of the services that they provide, but they will also be in a position to boost their own economic standing to a higher level.
However, there are several issues remaining here. It has been observed that most financial institutions are averse to providing assistance to SMEs who provide WSS services. Mainly due to the fact that they do not have access to sufficient information on SMEs, which would allow them to provide financial assistance to such businesses. On the other hand, SMEs are unsure about how to go about acquiring funding from these financial institutions. They lack knowledge of the current market scenario and modern technologies as well.
Inspira assisted water.org in compiling a database of SMEs, who are economically investible and who can be provided with technical and market linkage support. The database has an in-depth profile of the top 30 SMEs, illuminating their business characteristics, revenue fundamentals, value chain resiliency and many more details of them. The database contains the essential pieces of information that are necessary for financial institutions to have in order to determine whether or not a prospective loan application is eligible for the loan or not. As a result, it was a lot easier for the financial institutions to get an accurate picture of the SMEs that are eligible for loans. In this way, more people at the bottom of the economic pyramid can have access to clean water and sanitary facilities (BoP).
Among the top 30 SMEs, there are tubewell, water pump and spare parts manufacturers, plastic toilet accessories producers, latrine producers, sanitary pad manufacturers, drinking water and industrial wastewater treatment service providers, soap manufacturers, and innovators or startups who bring solutions to wastewater treatment, faecal sludge management, rainwater harvesting system and so on. These business owners will be assisted by Water.org in their pursuit of financial support, as well as obtaining technical assistance and acquiring knowledge of the techniques for designing, implementing, and scaling up viable WSS solutions. People living in BoP will have access to better and more developed sanitation services due to these actions. One of the objectives of this project is to assist SMEs in many areas in enhancing the quality of their services, which will thereby benefit the BoP people.