Micro-entrepreneurs often lack the financial literacy required for the complex financial decisions they face. We conduct a randomized control trial with a bank in the Dominican Republic to compare the impact of two distinct programs: a standard accounting training versus a simplified, rule-of-thumb training that teaches basic financial heuristics. Only the latter produced significant improvements in firms’ financial practices, objective reporting quality and revenues. Looking at treatment heterogeneity, the impact is specially pronounced for microentrepreneurs with lower skills or poor initial financial practices. These results suggest that reducing the complexity of training programs might improve their effectiveness, especially for less sophisticated clients.
A long-standing question is whether differences in management practices across firms can explain differences in productivity, especially in developing countries where these spreads appear particularly large. To investigate this, we ran a management field experiment on large Indian textile firms. We provided free consulting on management practices to randomly chosen treatment plants and compared their performance to a set of control plants. We find that adopting these management practices raised productivity by 17% in the first year through improved quality and efficiency and reduced inventory, and within three years led to the opening of more production plants. Why had the firms not adopted these profitable practices previously? Our results suggest that informational barriers were the primary factor explaining this lack of adoption. Also, because reallocation across firms appeared to be constrained by limits on managerial time, competition had not forced badly managed firms to exit.
Business training programs are a popular policy option to try to improve the performance of enterprises around the world. The last few years have seen rapid growth in the number of evaluations of these programs in developing countries. We undertake a critical review of these studies with the goal of synthesizing the emerging lessons and understanding the limitations of the existing research and the areas in which more work is needed. We find that there is substantial heterogeneity in the length, content, and types of firms participating in the training programs evaluated. Many evaluations suffer from low statistical power, measure impacts only within a year of training, and experience problems with survey attrition and measurement of firm profits and revenues. Over these short time horizons, there are relatively modest impacts of training on survivorship of existing firms, but stronger evidence that training programs help prospective owners launch new businesses more quickly. Most studies find that existing firm owners implement some of the practices taught in training, but the magnitudes of these improvements in practices are often relatively modest. Few studies find significant impacts on profits or sales, although a couple of the studies with more statistical power have done so. Some studies have also found benefits to microfinance organizations of offering training. To date there is little evidence to help guide policymakers as to whether any impacts found come from trained firms competing away sales from other businesses versus through productivity improvements, and little evidence to guide the development of the provision of training at market prices. We conclude by summarizing some directions and key questions for future studies.
Incentive pay is a key component of management strategy, and yet field evidence on the impacts of both individual and team incentives is limited to studies carried out in high-income countries. The mechanisms that lie behind individual responses to incentives go far beyond rational considerations of wage maximization, and encompass concerns for social visibility, preferences for collective work and other behavioral norms. These norms tend to vary by culture, potentially creating considerable heterogeneity in responses to incentives across countries. We present evidence from a field experiment designed to evaluate the impact of individual and group monetary incentives and individual and group rank incentives in Accra, Ghana. We precisely estimate that, contrary to earlier findings in other settings, these incentives have no impact on productivity, work quality and firm profitability. The findings indicate that more research is needed to shed light on the cultural characteristics of the setting that determines whether performance pay is effective.
Many basic economic theories with perfectly functioning markets do not predict the existence of the vast number of microenterprises readily observed across the world. We put forward a model that illuminates why financial and managerial capital constraints may impede experimentation, and thus limit learning about the profitability of alternative firm sizes. The model shows how lack of information about one’s own type, but willingness to experiment to learn one’s type, may lead to short-run negative expected returns to investments on average, with some outliers succeeding. To test the model we put forward first a motivating experiment from Ghana, and second a small meta-analysis of other experiments. In the Ghana experiment, we provide inputs to microenterprises, specifically financial capital (a cash grant) and managerial capital (consulting services), to catalyze adoption of investments and practices aimed towards enterprise growth. We find that entrepreneurs invest the cash, and take the advice, but both lead to lower profits on average. In the long run, they revert back to their prior scale of operations. The small meta analysis includes results from 18 other experiments in which either capital or managerial capital were relaxed, and find mixed support for this theory.
This paper studies the causal impact of credit constraints on exporting firms. We exploit a natural experiment provided by two policy changes in India, first in 1998 which made small-scale firms eligible for subsidized direct credit, and a subsequent reversal in policy in 2000 wherein some of these firms lost their eligibility. Using firms that were not affected by these policy changes (in each case) as our control group, we find that expansion of subsidized credit increased the rate of growth of bank borrowing by about 20 percent and export earnings by around 22 percent. Interestingly, the subsequent policy reversal in 2000 had no impact on the rate of growth of bank borrowing and on export earnings.
This paper documents a widely overlooked dimension of relationship lending: the personal interaction between the borrower and the lender reduces the willingness of the borrower to engage in moral hazard and default on the loan officer. We conduct a randomized experiment with small business borrowers of the largest commercial bank in India to test the impact of three different levels of interactions between the borrower and the bank. Borrowers who are regularly called either by a single assigned relationship manager or by one manager randomly selected from a small team of managers shows much better repayment behavior and greater satisfaction with the bank services than borrowers who either receive no follow up or only receive follow up calls from the bank when they are delinquent. The results are economically and statistically significant: borrowers who receive the more intensive treatment see a large reduction in the number of late payment spells and delinquencies.
What capital is missing in developing countries? We put forward “managerial capital”, which is distinct from human capital, as a key missing form of capital in developing countries. And it has also been curiously missing in the research on growth and development. We argue in this paper that lack of managerial capital has broad implications for firm growth as well as the effectiveness of other input actors. A large literature in development economics aims to understand the impediments to firm growth, particularly small and medium enterprises. Standard growth theories have explored the importance of input factors such as capital and labor in the production function of firms and countries.