TECH SHOWS THE WAY TO SMES' REVIVAL
Outlook Money|October 2021
As the Coronavirus continues to exist and move freely across nations, the Indian economy had to stand back at its feet and rebuild itself. MSMEs and SMEs were badly bruised by the pandemic, and its remedy is machine intelligence, data security and cloud computing, among others.
Madhuparna Roy Sukul

The pandemic has dramatically changed the world by reshaping and remodeling our livelihoods. The economy has faced multiple crises, like health, and financial. With an average rate of contraction recorded at 7.3 per cent for the entire financial year 2020-21, the country recorded its largest drop in GDP in history. The hardest hit were the Indian households, workers, and small businesses. Around 10 million people lost their jobs during the second wave of Covid, leaving many people with no income.

However, as every cloud has a silver lining, some people proved how moments of adversity in life can be the greatest opportunities. Chef Amit Wadhawan from Gurgaon lost his job in May 2020 and that’s when he decided to follow his passion. He soon launched his range of jams (from Kiwi to apple jam), malted chocolate, gluten-free options, and more, which soon became a hit.

Pooja Goel, an MBA in marketing, lost her job offer with a digital business transformation company due to the pandemic, which came through an end-to-end campus recruitment campaign. Initially bewildered, she then came up with the idea of launching a platform (Pink Collar Professionals) that supports small businesses (edtech, clothing, handmade ornaments) led by women. The company helps promote its business through different digital marketing strategies and ideas. Goel, in association with the Smile Foundation, also imparts digital skills training to rural women.

So, what was the driving force behind all these small business success stories? While the will to get going and creating an income stream is the primary motive, technology, here, plays a significant role in the economic recovery of people who lost their jobs and incomes at the time of the pandemic. Thus, it has shown a ray of hope for the economic revival of the nation as a whole.

Healing Covid Wounds

For budding entrepreneurs, digital technology like social media platforms (Facebook or WhatsApp) or websites served as their promotional or marketing strategy. Although not all companies can set up websites or purchase expensive software packages, there is still hope for them by utilising free online tools that help them grow their business and make it easier for customers to find them. Digital adoption has played a major role in the business revival post-Covid by bringing in more opportunities for small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

For many business owners like Sunita Anil Agarwal, going digital was the turning point for their businesses. Agarwal’s was one among the many businesses that were hit by the pandemic. As she dealt with low-value, high-volume transactions, Khatabook, (a ledger account book app, based on the traditional “under bahi khata” concept), helped her control the losses by and large. The app now helps her to manage and keep records for the sales numbers or send payment reminders to customers, eliminating the need for the traditional bahi khata for her.

A study conducted by Google and KPMG says that digital SMEs have recorded almost twice the forecasted revenue growth as opposed to the ones operating offline.

Some of the small businesses that were forced to adopt technology and operate online are ration stores and restaurants. While they started accepting payments through UPI or digital wallets, the restaurants started delivering food through apps like Swiggy and Zomato. Among other online services that recorded a rise in business were home service businesses like the Urban Company, HomeTriangle and Housejoy, besides online learning.

However, social media is just one part of the digitalisation of SMEs or MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises). Let’s look at some of the other major applications of technology that can help small businesses grow.

Mobile Technology

From individuals to small or large enterprises, mobile technology has made its presence felt all over. However, the most benefitted are the small businesses due to their power to generate omnipresent customers. By the same token, if the business has a website and it’s responsive, the chances of ranking high in the search results are higher. It’s a bonus if the business operates through an app.

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