When a crisis like COVID strikes, it has far-reaching effects on a country’s economy, especially small businesses. It’s no wonder that in India, a long period of lockdown, staggered opening of commercial establishments, physical distancing norms and inadequate logistics support have made it challenging for small and medium enterprises to get back on their feet. Small businesses have been particularly hit by order cancellations, shortage of raw material and labour, and problems with financing. So, what is the solution?
Since no one knows when the economy will come out of the clutches of the virus, shifting to digital platforms in almost all areas of business is essential to make operations contact-less.
Here are 7 tips that will help you get started:
1. Smart Business Networking – The pandemic has postponed trade fairs and exhibitions indefinitely. Restrictions on international travel and safety concerns about domestic travel have forced small business owners to rethink their networking strategies. MyCII.in is an online business resource centre provided by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), which gives members access to a pool of knowledge, business leads and networking opportunities. You will find regular online master classes and webinars besides recordings of previous presentations, government notifications, research reports and database here.
2. Smart Business Development – Business development through bulk emailing, social media campaigns, tele-calling requires a database of customers. There are numerous companies providing market research and lead generation services across the country, like India Database Co, Dataguru, Leadcrux, etc. Trade associations also maintain databases of various industries. FICCIB2B.in, run by Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), India’s largest apex business organization, also makes databases available.
3. Smart ecommerce – Increasingly, B2B buyers are getting as budget-savvy and fastidious as B2C customers. Bulk buyers research potential sellers online and try to ease their complex workflows through value-added partnerships. They expect the same flexibility that buying a product on Amazon would give. B2B buyers make bulk purchases, negotiate prices and demand multiple logins for their buying teams and to manage the workflow. All these need to be accommodated either via your own e-commerce site or a B2B commerce platform that you are a part of. You should also consider offering detailed catalogues and flexible/dynamic pricing.
4. Smart borrowing – You can dig into alternative sources of funding for your business. One such avenue is peer-to-peer lending through online platforms, which are gaining ground since RBI allowed such organizations to be registered as Non-Banking Financial Company (NBFC). P2P sites can bring you multiple proposals to fund your requirements through reverse auction if you have a good credit rating. You can then choose the best deal. P2P loans can be tied up faster than traditional methods of borrowing. Unlike bank borrowing, P2P borrowing does not require collateral. They are transparent and free of hidden charges. RupeeCircle, OML, Faircent are some RBI-registered peer-to-peer lending companies.
5. Smart logistics – One of the areas in which MSMEs have been hit the hardest is logistics. Procurement and delivery were suddenly put out of gear at the beginning of the pandemic. With lockdown restrictions getting lifted, logistics movement is slowly coming back on track. To ensure business continuity and handle abrupt changes in the logistics chain, you need to adopt smart predictive scheduling through intelligent routing, contacting deliveries, onboarding temporary staff quickly and providing smartphone app to drivers for real-time communication with customers. Logistics support companies like Far Eye Serve and Shipsy provide flexibility and customization to MSMEs to move goods efficiently from farms, factories, distributions centres and customers.
6. Smart operations – Google for Small Business is a very useful platform to run operations in a contact-less manner. Creating a business profile on the platform will enable you to reach customers. You can accept contact-less payment through Google Pay, run Google Ad campaigns and run your business remotely through Google Meet and Google Drive.
7. Smart learning – A number of government and private agencies provide entrepreneurship training for new and existing businesses. While face-to-face training programmes have stopped, many organizations are holding regular webinars on business development, technology, resource mobilization and so on. SME Chamber of India, National Institute for Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development under Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship Development Institute, are some of them. Now is the time to upskill and explore new horizons.
So, don’t lose hope even if your business has been drastically affected by the pandemic. Make a note of the 7 tips above to rebuild and take care of everything from selling and logistics to training and networking.