The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many small businesses to run their business in a more trim and efficient manner which has led to a permanent shift in their operating landscape. The onset of pandemic and subsequent lockdowns had made the situation dire, especially for small businesses with negligible or limited cash reserves. With millions of organized and unorganized workforce that are part of small businesses, the layoffs and job losses were inevitable.
However, as the lockdown was lifted gradually, most of the small businesses tried to reinvent themselves by finding innovative ways to keep their operations going and leveraging technology while keeping the focus on consumers. More than 60% of small businesses in India are confident that their business will continue to grow despite the negative impact of the pandemic, according to Global Entrepreneurship Survey done by GoDaddy in2020.
Battered By The Pandemic Small Businesses Are Now Adjusting To The New Normal
Small and Medium businesses account for a large chunk of employment and a significant part of GDP, thus being rightly called the backbone of any economy. Existing resource struggles and low operational margins compounded with the COVID-19 pandemic in the country brought about many disruptions. With one year on, as the small businesses are adjusting to the new normal, they have been reworking and rethinking the way they will operate their business models, growth trajectories, organization structures while increasing the adoption of digital tools.
The online mode may not be feasible for all; however, seeking a new direction has been the aim of these small businesses. A fitness company, Jayanagar Jaguars, their business model was focused on physical presence and never did any training remotely came up with ‘fit-from-home’ program. Post pandemic, they are beginning to redress their goal of making their presence in 50 locations this year from 27 in last year.
Similarly, BASCOOL (Bangalore Adventure School) offers physical training for outdoor adventure activities always had physical meetings for theory lessons, but now they are considering that how without taking physical sessions, they can motivate people to undertake safe adventures.
Technology has become an enabler during these times of social distancing. Like BASCOOL never considered having an online strategy, but now they have realized that conducting online sessions for theory is actually saving them. The adoption of digitalization will be the key to transform small businesses to be more resilient and competitive.
Small businesses mostly depend on their day-to-day operations to generate cash flows; therefore, revamping their business models with technology adoption is helping them find different avenues to reach their customers. Such companies like Jayanagar Jaguars and BASCOOL, which were extensively relying on social interaction, are now evolving new channels that do not require physical interaction. For instance, creating WhatsApp groups, holding online introductory sessions for new customers, showcasing role models, creating contests and challenges, and showcasing winners on social media are a few things that are being adopted to move forward.
Another company Gokul that started online streaming sessions during the pandemic, has garnered new clientele in many other cities besides their base city Bangalore. They have even received partnership requests from other cities. The company claims that going forward; they will dedicate some time to online engagement as well. Similarly, Wagle Sports, a sports shop, now allows consumers across Mumbai to buy their products over WhatsApp.
For StyleNook, surviving the pandemic involved quickly changing the focus of their business model since the demand for their personalized office wear recommendation service collapsed during the lockdown. Soon they added loungewear, pajamas, and other comfort clothing to suit the pandemic-era. Now their sales have recovered to pre-pandemic levels.
With more consumers moving online for shopping, the company foresees a bright future. Another survival strategy that the company adopted was to help vendors who were stuck with excess stock due to order cancellations. They partnered with manufacturers who had never previously thought about selling directly to consumers.
Strategies like these combined with technology have offered untold opportunities to many small businesses in the country.
Leveraging Technology And Innovative Strategies For The Way Forward
Small businesses will have to be more innovative to exploit technology to their advantage. They will have to focus on developing a new set of skills along with the ability to be swift and at the same time be robust and flexible to face future uncertainties.
While whirling out of this pandemic by radically changing business models has worked for some small businesses while others have lacked the resources and capacity to reinvent themselves. Small businesses are working hard to regain their momentum in 2021.