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Small and medium enterprises (also SMEs, small and medium businesses, SMBs, and variations thereof) are companies whose headcount or turnover falls below certain limits.

The abbreviation SME occurs commonly in the European Union and in international organizations, such as the World Bank, the United Nations and the WTO. The term small and medium businesses or SMBs is predominantly used in the USA.

EU Member States traditionally have their own definition of what constitutes an SME, for example the traditional definition in Germany had a limit of 250 employees, while, for example, in Belgium it could have been 100. But now the EU has started to standardize the concept. Its current definition categorizes companies with fewer than 10 employees as "micro", those with fewer than 50 employees as "small", and those with fewer than 250 as "medium" Small medium organizations need to have between 20-500 employees .[1] By contrast, in the United States, when small business is defined by the number of employees, it often refers to those with fewer than 100 employees, while medium-sized business often refers to those with fewer than 500 employees.

Both the US and the EU generally use the same threshold of fewer than 10 employees for small offices (SOHO).

In most economies, smaller enterprises are much greater in number. In the EU, SMEs comprise approximately 99% of all firms and employ between them about 65 million people.[2] In many sectors, SMEs are also responsible for driving innovation and competition. Globally SMEs account for 99% of business numbers and 40% to 50% of GDP.

In India, the Micro and Small Enterprises (MSEs) sector plays a pivotal role in the overall industrial economy of the country. It is estimated that in terms of value, the sector accounts for about 39% of the manufacturing output and around 33% of the total export of the country. Further, in recent years the MSE sector has consistently registered higher growth rate compared to the overall industrial sector. The major advantage of the sector is its employment potential at low capital cost. As per available statistics, this sector employs an estimated 31 million persons spread over 12.8 million enterprises and the labour intensity in the MSE sector is estimated to be almost 4 times higher than the large enterprises.[3]

In South Africa the term SMME, for Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises, is used. Elsewhere in Africa, MSME is used, for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises.

definition for SMEs is often considered to be an obstacle for business studies and market research. Definitions in use today define thresholds in terms of employment, turnover and assets. They also incorporate a reasonable amount of flexibility around year-to-year changes in these measures so that a business qualifying as an SME in one year can have a reasonable expectation of remaining an SME in the next. The thresholds themselves, however, vary substantially between countries. As the SME thresholds dictate to some extent the provision of government support, countries in which manufacturing and labour-intensive industries are prioritised politically tend to opt for more relaxed thresholds.

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