Entrepreneurs Change the World

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I'm Steve Ember. And I'm Shirley Griffith with EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English. Today we tell about entrepreneurs and the problems they face starting businesses around the world.

"Entrepreneur" is a French word that means someone who does something. An entrepreneur is someone who attempts to organize resources in new and more valuable ways and accepts full responsibility for the result.

Entrepreneurs bring a new product, service or idea to market. For more than a century, entrepreneurs have changed the world. American Bill Gates is perhaps the world's best-known entrepreneur. He did not invent personal computers. But his operating system made computers easy to use. It also brought the new technology to millions of people around the world.

Wendell Cochran is a journalism professor at American University in Washington, D.C. He says the Internet is a very helpful tool for entrepreneurs. That is because it provides information to anyone, anywhere.

Craig Newmark is an example of another American entrepreneur. Thirteen years ago, Mr. Newmark created an Internet message service for the investment company where he worked. Today, his web site, Craig's List, has users in more than five hundred fifty hundred cities and fifty countries. They can buy and sell goods, find a job or a place to live.

Modern technology has made it easier for entrepreneurs around the world to succeed. However, they still have problems getting money to start businesses and deal with government restrictions in many countries. In Venezuela, for example, monetary exchange controls and a leadership hostile to free markets make it difficult to do business. Santiago Alvarez is a businessman in Caracas. He says it is difficult to get all the permits necessary to start a business.

In India, Sunil Mittal overcame different problems to build a successful telecommunications company. He says the end of central economic planning by the country's government helped his company succeed.

SUNIL MITTAL: "With thirty, thirty-five million dollars that I could access, we went on to built India's second largest telecom company."

Today, Bharti Airtel has thirty thousand employees. The Bharti Group has become India's second largest corporation.

Brent Goldfarb is a business professor at the University of Maryland. He says all kinds of people work to become entrepreneurs. However, he says most entrepreneurs do not get rich. Most earn less than if they were working for someone else. That was true for Pakistani entrepreneur Ashar Hafeez. He opened his first Tandoori restaurant in Islamabad in nineteen ninety-three. He has advice for other entrepreneurs: "You have to work very hard. And you cannot do it alone. You have to have a very good team with you."

In Iraqi Kurdistan, Suhela Kakil Raza is a mother of four. She began making women's clothes about a year ago. But there were problems finding a place to open her store in her city, Irbil. She had to find an area in Irbil where men did not go. This would permit Sunni Muslim women to come out and buy her products. Now, Suhela Kakil Raza has four employees and she wants to expand. She says she dreams of having a factory. She would also like to operate a school to train her female workers.

In South Africa, Mthuli Ncube is the director of the entrepreneurship institute at the University of the Vitwatersrand. He says the African continent does not have enough entrepreneurs who are prepared to take risks. However, the most successful black entrepreneur in South Africa, Richard Maponya, has been taking risks for a long time to build successful businesses. Now in his eighties, Mr. Maponya recently opened a huge shopping center in Soweto, near the city of Johannesburg.

Donald Trump is one of America's most successful property developers. He says entrepreneurs must think big and take action. He says they also must study new information, learn to negotiate and enjoy competition.

In many developing countries, small loans are known as micro-credit or micro-financing. They have helped entrepreneurs get the money they need to start a business. Special attention is now being given to female entrepreneurs. They have had to beat many cultural barriers to get financing.

In Bangladesh, the Grameen Bank lends small amounts of money, mainly to women. And almost all of these small business loans are repaid. Grameen was the first bank in the developing world to lend money to poor people who wanted to be entrepreneurs. Muhammad Yunus started the Grameen Bank. He and the bank won the Nobel Peace Prize in two thousand six.

Grameen's micro-financing has expanded the idea of entrepreneurship to many people. For them, entrepreneurship is about raising chickens and cows or making clothes to help feed their families. For example, Margaret Okoth sells food at a market in Nairobi, Kenya. She is using low-interest micro-loans from an organization in her village.

MARGARET OKOTH: "[The cooperative] has recently increased its limit so that you can borrow eighty thousand [shillings]. And if you take out that big a loan you'll really see your business grow."

Margaret Okoth's area at the market was destroyed in violence after the Kenyan election. But loans permitted her to rebuild. The money also helped her balance her business with her other job, as a wife and mother of twelve children.

Now, large lenders like the World Bank are supporting the ideas of the Grameen Bank in discussions with developing countries. Dahlia Khalifa is a business expert at the World Bank's International Finance Corporation. She says getting the necessary financing is the biggest barrier for female entrepreneurs in African countries. But she says discrimination against women goes even further. In many places, women are not permitted to sign an agreement or to represent themselves in court.

Many countries have policies that make it hard for entrepreneurs to start businesses. In Russia, for example, people often have to make secret payments to government officials to influence their decisions on business permits. Other entrepreneurs say they have to deal with government processes that are slow and difficult.

Alexei Protsky has a chemical company. He says he has to deal with unnecessary rules and reporting requirements. He says dealing with too much paperwork means a loss of time and reduction in productivity for his company.

Every year, the World Bank rates countries on the ease of starting a business. The Bank examines the processes involved in getting permits, getting credit, paying taxes and enforcing agreements. World Bank specialist Dahlia Khalifa says some governments are reforming and changing their business laws. The World Bank said Egypt was the top reformer last year, followed by Croatia, Ghana, Macedonia and Georgia. The bank says Egypt reduced the amount of money needed to start a business. Egypt also eased rules that used to delay building permits.

Schools and universities around the world are teaching entrepreneurship. For example, in China and India, thousands of people are attending graduate schools of business where entrepreneurship is taught.

Such programs in the developing world are influenced by those in the United States. At some American universities, business students are required to start a business before they complete their study program.

Elaine Allen teaches entrepreneurship at Babson College in Boston, Massachusetts. She says she meets with groups of college students before they learn about financial rules. The groups are given two thousand dollars and told to start a business.

At the end of the year, she says, almost all of them make a profit. Often the profits are as much as fifty or sixty thousand dollars. They donate this money to non-profit organizations. These students are on their way to becoming entrepreneurs of the future.

This program was written by Barry Wood and adapted by Shelley Gollust. Our producer was Mario Ritter. I'm Steve Ember. And I'm Barbara Klein. You can download audio and read scripts on our Web site, voaspecialenglish.com. Join us again next week for EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English.

Voice of America Special English

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