Connecting SMEs to experts

PUM Netherlands is working to support SMEs in the local arena. Burtis Van Heugten, the country coordinator for PUM shares what they are all about.

PUM Netherlands (Manager Deployment Programme) deploys more than 3,200 Dutch entrepreneurs, managers and specialists in developing and emerging markets to help entrepreneurs shape their businesses. With the motto ‘entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs’, PMU provides assistance to Small and Medium enterprises (SMEs) in 70 countries. 

Bertus Van Heugten, PUM country coordinator for Nepal, talked to Ventureplus about PMU’s work in Nepal. Edited excerpts:

How does PUM define an SME?
For PUM, an SME is a firm that employs around 10-250 people, and has an annual turnover of less than Rs.10 million.

Why do you think it is important to provide support to SMEs in developing countries? 

SMEs around the world face similar problems. One of the main problems they face is the lack of managerial and technical ideas. This prevents the SMEs from growing further after their startup phase. SMEs, not big companies, are the backbone of a developing country.

If you look around, you will see that majority of the people, nearly 80 percent, of them work for SMEs. If these small SMEs grow and bloom, businesses will make more profit.

This will further leads to more investment, growth, more employment opportunities and eventually economic prosperity. The Dutch tax payers are more than happy to pay for a program like PUM; they have been doing for the past 35 years.

How do you select the companies to work with?
We get all applications through our local contact, One to Watch. The most important criterion we have is that the company has to be two years old. We insist that the companies we work with meet this criterion as it is easier to identify problems in companies that are at least two years old.

PUM is demand-driven. This means that we ask the applicants to fill out the problems that they believe is hindering their growth. They can for example say they have managerial or technical difficulties.

The other criterion we have set is that the applicant should be able to provide accommodation and local transport for our consultants. PUM pays for the consultants’ international travel and other official formalities until they land at their destination country.

How do you assess the success or failure of an SME that you have supported?
Immediately after the completion of the consultation period, both entrepreneurs and consultants fill out questionnaires to assess the usefulness of the consultations.

Over a period of time, we also have random visit to the projects to assess their usefulness.

Over the years, the number of companies seeking our help has increased. In the last three years, the number of applicants, who are from different sectors, has increased from 25 to 60.

Till date, we have assisted nearly 58 medium companies in Nepal by providing them services from various managerial and technical experts.

More entrepreneurs are interested in increasing their capacities, and have positive learning attitudes. Most of them do try to execute the suggestions made by PUM.

For more info: Niraj Khanal
One to Watch
Representative for PUM, Nepal

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