Kolkata: Starting an outcome audit of sorts, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has begun to question the impact of initiatives taken by her government to promote the state as business-friendly.
She has asked the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) department to explain how the state had benefited from a Bengali television show titled Egiye Bangla, or Bengal Ahead. It was launched last year by her government to find new entrepreneurs with smart ideas.
Though billed as one of her favourite projects ahead of the assembly election earlier this year, officials say she might not approve the second season of Egiye Bangla.
Hosted by former cricketer Sourav Ganguly, the show was last year telecast on Zee Bangla—a general entertainment channel—and cost the state government Rs4 crore.
Rajiva Sinha, principal secretary in the state’s MSME department, said the second season has not been cancelled. “We are working on a new format to make it more effective,” he said. However, he didn’t specify when it will go on air.
The idea behind the television show was to promote entrepreneurship as well as identify start-ups that could be incubated and supported by the state government, said officials in the MSME department and an adviser to the state government. They asked not to be named.
The MSME department partnered Indian Institute of Management Calcutta (IIM-C) to shortlist from among 1,000 applicants the 40 best business ideas. For the past year, these 40 businesses have received incubation support from IIM-C Innovation Park.
But more than that, “there was an element of social re-engineering” in Egiye Bangla, said one of the officials quoted above. “Bengalis are not naturally encouraged by their parents to start their own business ventures,” this person said, adding that keeping in mind the target audience, it was decided that the show will be telecast on a general entertainment channel.
“The intention was to start a conversation at homes, and seed the thought in people’s minds that instead of seeking employment with an established business, they could become job creators,” he said.
The show, according to him, got more viewers than expected. It couldn’t become as popular as a quiz show hosted by Ganguly, but the numbers were “pretty decent”.
Asked how the state had benefited from the show, MSME department officials say there are two ways to assess the outcome. The businesses that were identified for incubation had made significant progress in the past year under the guidance of IIM-C, according to the officials.
What is more difficult to assess, however, are the “intangibles”: “Did we indeed manage to start the conversation at home?” said the official cited above. “And one season may not be enough to achieve the objective of making parents think that entrepreneurship, as opposed to employment, isn’t a bad idea.”
Government officials say in the wake of the worsening financial situation, the chief minister may have started to review other initiatives closely and Egiye Bangla was only the first that got her attention when the MSME department began work in August to prepare for the second season.