An idea that was conceptualised in Maharashtra some eight years ago has turned as a ray of hope for the economic empowerment of the Indian Muslims. It is providing a mechanism for financial literacy and encouraging Muslims to play a pro-active role in economic activities. In 2015, RIFAH Chamber of Commerce and Industry was established to encourage people engaged in small businesses to work for the welfare of the people and society. After becoming self-reliant, they are supposed to think of the community and the society above self.
With the multi-layered support and guidance system, Rifah believes that Indian Muslims should become an asset and contribute towards economic activities for the growth and progress of the country. Its mission is to create a platform where Business is generated through effective networking. In less than a decade, Rifah has created widespread networks in around 100 cities in 18 states. Year after year, it is growing vertically and horizontally and at the same time also providing support, guidance, opportunity networking and above all building confidence in business community to think big and become an important component of growth and economic activities.
Mirza Afzal Baig, General Secretary of Rifah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said, “We are encouraging youths to become job givers and not mere job seekers as they also have some kind of responsibility towards community, society and the nation at large. Youth should become entrepreneurs and provide jobs to others. We are providing all kinds of support mechanism to the business community to expand their business and contribute to the welfare of the society after becoming self-sufficient.”
On the kind of support mechanism, General Secretary of Rifah said, “We assist for national and international networking to the business community for their product. Very recently, we had organised a networking event in Dubai, a networking Expo in Gulbarga (India), and an exhibition in Bangladesh. In this four-year term, Rifah has planned to tie up with about 10 international chambers of commerce and about 15 chambers of commerce in India.”
He added, “The other support mechanism we provide is liaising and there appears to be a vacuum between the government and the people. There is a perception of discrimination which is entrenched in the mindset of our community which has to be changed. This is the biggest challenge. Most of our community members think that the government is hostile to them, the atmosphere is not very conducive and as a result many don’t even think to approach to avail the benefits. They just blame the system. We have to come out of the minority syndrome to become an important component of growth story of India.”
Afzal Baig elaborated, “The point is the government is not helping the community instead it is solving its own burden of unemployment by helping others. If the economic activities of our community will increase then ultimately it will add up to the growth of the GDP of the country. So, wherever we organised events, government officers were eager to come. They come, give lectures and also provide funds. The community should understand this phenomenon.”
He further elaborated: “The third thing we are doing is on finance fronts. Today, there is no lack of funds but what is lacking is a good investment opportunity. We have a platform called business finance where we don’t provide finance but we educate the business community as from where and how they can get finance for business. Sometimes we find their issue is not finance but profitability and we guide them accordingly,” he said.
On what makes Rifah Chambers of Commerce different from other chambers of commerce, Baig said, “In two unique ways it is different from others. A majority of chambers of commerce are at local levels or city-based. Our plus point is that we are in 18 states and in multiple cities. In Karnataka, we are in 15 cities, in 12 cities in Maharashtra, 6 cities in Gujarat. This makes us different from others and anyone who joins us will join a big network.”
He further said, “The objective of other chambers of commerce is to provide some benefit to those who have joined them. We, apart from providing benefit to them, also guide them that as Muslim they are born for a big cause and not only to become self-sufficient. We have a responsibility towards society, community and towards nation and it can only be fulfilled by thinking big and doing big for a cause.”
As a whole, Rifah offers guidance for entrepreneurship development, business summit, business networking and trade fair, government scheme, business startup and consultancy, women empowerment, finance and investment and business networking and trade fair.