Brunei Darussalam aims to improve the ease of doing business in the country, and has established a national body dedicated to support Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) from start-up to growth.
In 2016, His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam consented to the establishment of Darussalam Enterprise (DARe) to develop MSMEs into drivers of economic growth.
The development of MSMEs is essential to the national development vision, Brunei Vision 2035, which aspires for a dynamic and sustainable economy with a per capita GDP that ranks among the top 10 in the world.
“MSMEs are the way forward for our nation to grow not just in terms of our GDP, but MSMEs are the ones that will diversify our economy from oil and gas. MSMEs are also the ones that will provide employment opportunities for our local talent and fresh graduates,” said DARe CEO Javed Ahmed.
He added that DARe works closely with government and non-government agencies to encourage the growth of business enterprises and increase GDP contribution.
DARe runs three training programmes for MSMEs, beginning with the Industry Business Academy (IBA), which covers core business skills from financial management to marketing through modules taught in classes, which have been participated by 3,400 business owners and employees.
To provide training, mentorship and access to investors in challenging markets, DARe runs two business boot camps throughout the year: Startup Bootcamp and a series of Micro Business Bootcamp (MBB). The programmes train youth who seek to start their own businesses.
“We are constantly looking to develop and improve our programmes and initiatives, whether it’s by providing capacity building programmes, industrial land and complexes, marketing and promotion, or financing and growth outside of Brunei,” said Javed.
In 2016, 46 companies generated BND584,000 in investments and created jobs for 260 Bruneians. The following year, in the first cycle of the Startup Bootcamp, 13 local start-ups collectively raised BND300,000 in investment, generated BND80,000 in revenue, and employed 131 people.
The year 2018 saw Singapore-based Golden Equator Consulting partnering with DARe for local businesses to run the latest cycle of its Startup Bootcamp. Designed as an intensive 100-day programme for start-ups with ambitions of scaling beyond Brunei, Startup Bootcamp’s first two cycles saw 46 companies raise over BND580,000 in investment and creating close to 400 jobs.
The Micro Business Bootcamp, which targets small enterprises with less than four employees, ran its first cycle last year, taking 32 businesses from ideation to execution.
The DARe CEO said both bootcamps – as well as IBA which offers standalone classes and workshops on core business concepts – were open to businesses in all industries.
“What we want to bring in and develop is variety. Just opening the programmes to technology enterprises would have been too restrictive,” said Javed. “What we want to see is an integration and mixing of different industries to produce innovation.”
To spark growth amongst MSMEs, DARe introduced “co-matching” grants of up to BND20,000 in the third quarter of 2018 for local businesses. The grants require MSMEs to put forward 30 per cent of each of their total project cost, with DARe funding another 70 per cent up to a maximum of BND20,000.
Other financing options include the DARe micro business grant of BND5,000; DARe’s microcredit financing scheme offering up to BND15,000 with a profit rate of four per cent; the LiveWIRE Business Awards Start-Up Funding Scheme which offers a loan of BND50,000 without interest; and the recently established Bank Usahawan which offers financing up to BND750,000 with a variable profit rate dependent on the bank’s analyses.
According to Javed, DARe is looking at expanding the incubation space for start-ups – which allows businesses to operate their own offices at affordable rates – by refurbishing unused buildings within Anggerek Desa Technology Park (ADTP).
DARe provides MSMEs with space for expansion and growth, including incubation space for start-ups and industrial land and ready-built factories for larger businesses. More than 300 businesses occupy 29 industrial sites across Brunei’s four districts managed by DARe, with iCentre as the main start-up incubation space in ADTP alongside Knowledge Hub.
To address inquiries from MSMEs, DARe set up three Business Support Centres. A flagship branch is in the capital which houses 13 different government agencies, with branches in Belait and Temburong. Businesses can access and submit business applications for permits, licenses and registrations; obtain business advice and information; and apply for SME programmes, grants and loans.
With the growing trend of digital and social media usage, DARe set up Biz Brunei, an online news platform to promote inspiring journeys of local MSMEs on their paths to become successful entrepreneurs. The site keeps Bruneians informed on the latest business opportunities.
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