Damas SME Initiative

Damas SME Initiative; Sustainability achieved through empowerment

Introduction

Damas has taken as its own imperative and its calling to provide support and assistance to help establish, nurture and develop small and medium enterprises in the country. The Chairman of the Company Mr. Mohamed Salih has undertaken this as a personal challenge. While DAMAS Company has the ability to develop its own retail outlets in the major population centers of the country, it has taken a resolute decision not to open any outlets outside Male’.

Instead Company made a firm decision for establishing and expanding its distribution channel through creating partners in the islands, helping them establish their businesses and use these as the Company’s major channel to create access to all corners of the country. Hence Damas Company’s CSR is not a separate program designed to fulfill its social obligation; it is one that is ingrained into our style and conduct of business and into our daily operations.

Objective

The objective of the program is to help develop SMEs in an active but sustainable way, taking them as partners of the Company’s business through empowerment, enhancing the quality of their businesses, helping them enhance their scale of operations to have economic efficiency at the same time realizing the goal of contribution to employment generation, poverty reduction, ensuring social safety and security.

The strategy fits well with the Company’s business philosophy as well, which embraces the objective of enhancing the quality of life of the Maldivian people.

Damas SME Initiative not only creates access to the Company’s products, but it builds communities and creates employment and livelihood for several people around the country.

The Company actively seeks potential participants and offers the opportunity to participate in the program with no long term strings attached. Retailers are free to leave the initiative once they feel confident to be able to manage their businesses on their own. Since its inception more than 600 retailers and traders across the country has participated in the program.

The Challenges

Damas recognizes the challenges and constraints faced by small and medium enterprises in the country. While the geographical layout alone creates huge challenges in terms of logistics and fragmented markets, there are others that are similar to most other countries.

Other constraints though similar to those that are often seen in other developing countries are further intensified as a result of the geographical and physical barriers that hinder movement. These include;

·                  Inadequate access to financial resources

·                  Limitations in access to technology

·                  Lack of entrepreneurship and management skills

Building Partnerships

Damas SME Initiative benefits SME distributors on many levels.  The program invests in stores by providing capital for new store enhancement, inventory, inventory tracking software and computers.  Distributors are also offered management skills and training opportunities, which are designed to help them grow their businesses.   In addition, the publicity, merchandising and marketing support that distributors receive, helps to enhance the participating stores’ image and marketing capabilities.  Through the Initiative, stores have access to more than 12,000 different product and service offerings at competitive prices.  The Damas brand offers customers a guaranteed product quality, convenience and uniform client service, which helps SME stores increase sales and income.  

Beyond the unique brand recognition of Damas, the program benefits SMEs and the greater community through the sharing of best business practices.  This helps enable participating SME stores to build stronger, more competitive and sustainable businesses that generate greater value and higher economic returns for themselves and their communities.

The Program

The Company’s program includes the following specific actions and support services provided to SMEs.

·       Initiate partnerships with island traders

·       Provide credit facilities, managerial, administrative and IT support

·       Conduct orientation programs and sales and customer service training for sales personnel working with the retail partners

·       Conduct customer  seminars and road shows on selected products imported and distributed by the company

·       Offer marketing support and product information and bulletin sheets for participants

·       Conduct regular visits to local communities to support small businesses

·       Provide office and business facilities and guidance for traders at Damas Head Office during their visits to Male’

·       Provide daily contact between participating stores and the Company’s Sales and Marketing Department.

The future

The Company plans to build and extend Damas SME Initiative by embarking upon a more diversified plan of action that would include SME’s in sectors such as agriculture & fishery and handicraft. The Company plans seek local authorities and international organizations with common goals to execute its future plans for the SME Initiative.

The objective is to broaden the scope of the programs involvement and implement direct programs that would contribute to enhance the lives the people. The focus will be on the development of cottage industry.

These include programs to offer opportunities for small scale food processing and packaging, provide the tools and know how to revitalize the handicraft sector and ensure their viability by facilitating opportunities to sell the final products at resorts throughout the country. The programs will contain the following elements;

·       Introduction of machinery and equipment for food processing and handicraft.

·       Provide training and offer guidelines for standards that need to be maintained.

·       Offer credit and grant schemes to enable participants to own the machinery needed.

·       Provide packing materials and packing equipment in order to make the products presentable to the target market.

·       Facilitate market access to participants so that their produce can be sold in tourist resorts.

Damas has also planned to install a small facility in Hulhumale’ as a training centre for those who will participate in the project.

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