The need for knowledge about these intermediate-level business groups in Asia has been further enhanced by the Asian crisis that started with the fall of the Thai baht in July 1997. Following the collapse of many large conglomerates in the Southeast Asian region since then, policy makers in national and international circles have started to show increasing interest in the small-scale economic sector in these countries. Within these circles, this sector is often seen as a ‘safety net’, generating employment for vulnerable groups and cushioning social

and political tensions by offering new opportunities to the middle class in small towns and rural areas. A similar refocusing of attention on small enterprises has occurred in India where the slow down of the economic reforms and subsequent recession from the mid-1990s onwards has raised renewed interest in the small business sector among policy makers.