The Indian MSME Chapter Amidst Covid-19
The pandemic closed many doors for MSMEs, but it also opened pathways for newer ones. With the increasing need to be virtual, there came a paradigm shift in consumer buying behavior, writes, Nitin Jain of NowFloats for SMEStreet.
Article by Nitin Jain, Co-Founder, NowFloats
Industries and economies have undergone massive disruption over the past few months, especially since the advent of Covid-19. From reduced production capacity to declining workforce retention, the industry has been faced with a pivot or perish situation. The coronavirus pandemic substantially disrupted the operations of MSMEs due to their dependence on the cash economy that was severely hit by the lockdown, the physical non-availability of workers, and restrictions in the availability of raw materials and transport infrastructure. This had substantial ramifications throughout the economy, with the SMBs being the most impacted industry.
The pandemic closed many doors for MSMEs, but it also opened pathways for newer ones. With the increasing need to be virtual, there came a paradigm shift in consumer buying behavior, with end-to-end processes shifting online. While the pandemic impacted the industry substantially, it also accelerated the shift to digital. This was accompanied by a massive shift in consumer behavior. It became evident that digitization was the only way forward for most MSMEs, not only to sustain business momentum but to increase business reach irrespective of the geography. Digitization can help small businesses to simplify operations, optimize processes, increase efficiency and open up new revenue streams. It can further help business owners understand and engage customers better and further generate insights to gauge the effectiveness of marketing campaigns, subsequently transform products with feedback.
Indian MSMEs have become more progressive in embracing new technology paradigms. Most businesses, regardless of the size, have understood the importance of adopting digital to be relevant for Industry 4.0.
Covid-19 has further disrupted the way most MSMEs operate, impacting the supply chains and demand. Although decades of technology upgradation have prepared us better to enabling business continuity, the pressures of enforcing contactless operations have forced most MSMEs to go back to the drawing board and rethink strategies to remain relevant and close to customers in this new environment. Small businesses in other sectors are learning from this example and finding a new life online. With more than 50% of businesses emerging from India’s Tier II and III cities, they too are enabling a digital presence to take advantage of the massive, unaddressed opportunities made available by the internet and smartphone revolution.
Direct to consumer (D2C) too is gaining momentum and is expected to drive the growth of online commerce in the near future. Defined by their nature of selling from their website directly, not only are these brands successful in excluding the middlemen and added processes but are further able to save huge costs. That further helps brands offer products at far more competitive prices. D2C brands are “not just product companies”. They are companies that are creating a community of like-minded people – this power of community is helping many small businesses grow faster than they would have otherwise.
With the uptake in D2C, it has allowed SMEs to take control of the brand end to end. With most customers now placing as much importance on their buying journey as the product, it’s important that businesses offer an all-round high-quality experience. This begins with the initial customer engagement, the browsing/buying journey, payment, after-sales service, and repeat targeting. This translates into increased control over the business’ brand, product, and image – and ensures a more cohesive brand experience.
As MSMEs navigate their way through digital adoption, they face multiple challenges, ranging from limited budgets to a lack of know-how and expertise required in the adoption of digital technologies, security, and trust issues. They need to become digitally trained rather than outsourcing the digitization work. This calls for a high alert shift to the ‘new digital normal’, exacerbating the urgency for MSMEs to have access to skills and solutions that lead to business growth.
Enter NowFloats, our Boost360 is enabling MSMEs across the country to penetrate the digital, grow their online presence, and be relevant and visible to all. Simplifying the digital journey of every business in India, we are helping over 35,000 businesses grow online. From helping them set up their online presence to sustaining their digital operations, we are enabling the Indian MSME journey to transcend into digital, while ensuring that they stay relevant. In doing so, we are not only helping brands to reach more customers but connect with customers from different geographies.
The Boost360 solution is tailored to specific industry categories so that the product speaks the language of the merchant and addresses his or her specific business needs. Hence the Boost 360 solution caters to the specific needs of manufacturers, traders, retailers, services professionals, doctors, restaurants, and hotels. While we have seen a disruption in the enterprise products through cloud technologies, verticalization, and an omnichannel approach we foresee that disruption extending to the MSME segment in the coming years.
Furthermore, and most importantly, we are helping businesses to transition smoothly to becoming digital. Working with Indian MSMEs for years, we understand their business needs and the challenges. Our platform is extremely simplistic and follows a DIY model, wherein a business owner can create their website within a short period, without knowing the technicalities required to do so. So, one does not need to be a website designer or hire one to have their website up and running. Boost360 has a very easy-to-use structure, forgetting any business up and running online. The app is aimed at helping small businesses set up, manage their workflows and grow, online, across multiple channels and social networks. All of this can be done over an easy-to-navigate application without much requirement of technical knowledge or skill.
Small businesses must know how digital empowers them to reach the masses, but at the same time stay in touch with strategies and methodologies that are being adapted. A do-it-yourself module does just that. Without any technical know-how, small business owners can set up the digital mirrors of their business, and control everything from inventory management to cost sheets with it.