The Business Centre Corporation

Individuals and businesses seek consultancy and professional assistance with their businesses, now more than ever.

MFR Image - Authentic Maldives

MFR Image - Authentic Maldives

The Business Centre Corporation (BCC) was formed in 2017 under a presidential decree in alignment with the SME Act (2013), mandated to support the development of the SME sector, under the supervision of the Ministry of Economic Development. The BCC is the official establishment driving the governments’ SME support efforts under the direction of the Minister of Economic Development, with advice from the SME council. The Government of Maldives, in its Strategic Action Plan, has outlined the strategies to diversify the country’s narrow economic base through legislative reforms as well as conducting measures to tap into new economic sectors. While SMEs and new startups play a key role in achieving this target, the BCC assists SMEs and entrepreneurs towards successful implementation of business practices and conduct, through its advisory services. 

According to the BCC’s Managing Director, Fathimath Fazleena Fakir, since the inception of the corporation, the impact on SMEs have been profound. According to the BCC, it has contributed to the National Micro Economic Policy at every stage of its execution and has contributed towards decentralization of public services and making these services more accessible through its regional business centers, established in 10 islands. The Regional Business Centers have been active since July 2019, providing consultations and advisory services to SMEs, by assisting in preparing business plans, providing advice on operations and finance, giving assistance on business registration, well as assisting SMEs in engaging with other government agencies. 

With 70 staff on its roster, the BCC employs internationally accredited SME consultants in all its business centers, who are well versed with local tax regulations and business registration processes. The BCC selects its staff based on education and experience in the business field. Some of the regional centers also employ coordinators, who conduct training on business registrations and economic profiling, as well as  on the preparation of business plans, marketing and tax trainings and workshops. It has provided training in various areas of commerce to 916 individuals, of whom 339 were women. 

Fazleena explained that, during COVID-19 in 2020, a survey conducted by the BCC indicated that most businesses were hit hard due to a lack of contingency plans. Such businesses had difficulties establishing themselves on digital platforms and providing services online, while reaching out to their existing customer base. To assist affected businesses, the BCC conducted various webinars where it helped people identify ways to adjust to unforeseen circumstances such as the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The BCC is mainly set up to be engaged in enabling SMEs with trade facilitation, access to finance, as well as financial and economic literacy, and the provision of consultation and advisory services. Under trade facilitation, its most recent initiative was the establishment of a co-working space, intended for service sector businesses, where startups can use the office space and other supplementary services such as vending machines, photocopying and free Wi-Fi, while working in a collaborative environment. With a capacity to cater to 30 individuals at a time, the co-working space will enable startups to reduce initial office setup costs, and work alongside others, to collaborate, innovate and compete within the market.

Authentic Maldives is another initiative of the BCC, in collaboration with the Ministry of Economic Development, and primarily functions as an outlet to display local artisan’s work and find them a global market for products. More than 100 suppliers are engaged in selling over 5,000 local made products in the Authentic Maldives outlet established at Velana International Airport’s duty-free area. Two more outlets have been established in Hulhumalé and Malé as well, where the majority of the market is locals. The Maldives Business Network is also a platform run by the BCC, which functions as a means of disseminating important information about the economy, finance, and commerce. This 'media agency' delivers educational, inspirational and entertainment content, with an explicit focus on business and commerce, through social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, Instagram and YouTube. 

The BCC explained that the corporation believes in an inclusive environment. For the economy to be enabling, there has to be equal opportunities. As such the BCC hopes to continue to offer services to SMEs engaged in all areas, encourage as many SMEs as possible and provide professional guidance through a number of its available services. Although individuals and businesses have been reluctant over the past few years, the establishment of the Business Center Corporation can provide a window where more SMEs are open towards seeking guidance and consultancy with regard to their business conduct. The BCC reported that it has provided consultations to 1,528 clients to date, of whom 417 were women entrepreneurs. It also said that it expected to cater to several hundred more within the year. 

With the efforts of BCC and other focused organisations, the failure percentage of startups could potentially be lessened. 

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