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Virtual cluster approach to help dispersed MSMEs

Promoting virtual clusters is an important stepping stone towards the changing paradigm of cluster development, said Mr Madhav Lal, Secretary MSME, while addressing an International Conference on Cluster Development being jointly organized by CII, Foundation for MSME Clusters (FMC), UNIDO and TCI Network. 

While a number of cluster development programmes are on for quite some time in India and abroad, the reach of the programmes get substantially curtailed due to the absence of timely, relevant and value added information. Creation of virtual networks that can provide such information is the key to reach them.

"Globally, there has been a growing interest for using clusters as a tool to address multiple issues including sustainability, inclusivity, innovation, manufacturing value added, etc. across the world", said Mr Gerardo Patacconi, Chief, CBL Unit of UNIDO, Vienna. "There is also huge scope for creating win-win growth paradigms by creating local network of producers and linking them to global value chains on a stronger footing", he added.  

"The issue of income generation and creation of skilled entrepreneurs is also a burning issue and so is the need to promote job creators", said Mr Deep Kapuria, Chairman, CII, SME Committee.

Earlier, welcoming the 175 delegates from around 20 countries, Prof Y K Alagh, Chairman of FMC said that "there is huge scope for linking agro processing units through the cluster route and strengthen the rural economy. We also need to take advantage of the natural network or pockets of trust that exist in clusters both for smoothening forward as well as backward linkages". 

"Such networks are also socially acceptable means for channeling finance. SIDBI has successfully conducted an experiment, where association has done the due diligence and SIDBI has made the financing. But such interventions need to be scaled up", said Mr N K MAini, DMD-In-Charge of SIDBI. 

"There is also need for branding of clusters for higher value addition". A book on cluster branding was also released on the occasion.

While the challenges are many, an area of prime concern is sustainability. The European Union through its Switch Asia Network Programme is addressing this issue globally and a number of projects are also on in India too, said Mr Arno, Minister Counsellor, EU. Clusters are being used as a tool for development not only in India but also in many European countries too. 

The Conference will dwell in issues like innovation, structural challenges, market led inclusive development and sustainability and learn from global lessons from developed and developing countries by 40 international speakers for this purpose during the course of the conference.