The business health of the SME industry is often a key indicator of a country’s economic condition. When SMEs struggle, a nation struggles. While SMEs are hard to classify based on size of investment or employees, they are critical for a country to achieve their innovation and development goals. Not to forget, they also have a huge bearing on keeping the population busy with jobs.
But, SMEs have been hit very hard since the pandemic began. This pandemic has affected more livelihoods than lives and has the potential of tearing down the economy lockdown after lockdown. The demand and supply equation has suffered and changed dynamically over the last year and newer waves of the virus don’t seem to be making it any easier for them to recover.
What they need at this point is to demonstrate innovative thinking to keep themselves in business. It is important to understand that they exist across a wide spectrum that begins as a startup and ends at an established medium sized business. Here are some solutions that can help SMEs recover with tech and innovation in the post pandemic world.
Switch to work from home
SMEs have been hit hard on both, the demand and supply side. Lack of employees or labour at workspaces has brought down the overall output and in some cases even caused businesses to become temporarily or permanently shut. This calls for swift action. Use technology to switch to a model where employees can work from home. Adopt tools that can take your business online, provide employees with communication tools to perform from remote locations and keep the business going with bare minimum need to call employees over to workspaces. Always remember that work from home is harder on employees than you might think. It comes with its own challenges and is not suitable for most employees. Reputed startups like OYO have recognised the stress employees undergo while they work from home. Office and home lines blur, calendars are always full and work from home has been tougher than they imagined it to be. So, they went ahead and declared every Wednesday off for their employees, transitioning to a 4 day work week to reduce stress and focus on employee health. Additionally, they have declared that paid leaves will be provided on an infinite basis, with no questions asked. Food startup Swiggy had also done the same for their employees and partners giving them the flexibility of choosing their weekly extra day off.
Take your business online with e-commerce. Enable this for your business today using various platforms available so that you can continue to serve your loyal customers and induct new ones. An e-commerce enabled business also casts a wider net to reach out and create awareness about your product. And basis the platform, devise creatives, information to ensure that you can build consideration for your product or service offering.
Gourmet ice cream manufacturers Artinci in Bengaluru took their business online using WhatsApp for Business to reach a wider customer base and serve them better during the pandemic. They managed to navigate the lockdown successfully and have emerged a formidable and favourite player in the local ice cream scene in the city.
Social media skills
Social media will move up the priority ladder for all your marketing efforts. To ensure you do this with frugality and efficiency in mind, pick up skills in this domain. There are several free online classes that teach social media skills for everyone and you should sign up for them.
Take a class on Udemy, or a Google course or LinkedIn learning or even CourseEra to pick up skills easily. It’s okay if you are out of the learning habit. These video based courses are very easy to understand. The simplicity and intuitive manner of teaching makes for very interesting classes.
Using medical technology
This is in reference to employee health with regards to the vaccine. Fortunately, we have a vaccine that can protect your employees. So, sign them up for their shots and get their health and their family’s health covered. This also helps boost employee morale and builds loyalty for them.
Most companies like the Tatas and the Mahindras have led the way in vaccinating their employees. The more drives conducted by employers, the safer employees and their families will be. The safer they are, the lesser the virus spreads. And this can only mean that business will get back to business.
Embrace new technologies for sanitisation
Emerging technologies for the safety of your business establishment is out there. Read up, go and seek demos to understand how new devices, tech can be used to keep your store or office space safe. Traditional methods will always be available, but in the world of smart technology, devices like the Shycocan can make spaces extremely safe from the transmission of viruses in the current pandemic. With up to 99.9% efficacy in neutralising the coronavirus, this is a great option for you to make your office spaces safer for both, your employees and your customers.
Help sales teams network
Your sales team cannot meet people like they used to. So, help them register for online conferences, workshops, events and continue meeting new prospective clients for your business. They might need some training to figure out how to track these events, register and attend. So, works towards bringing your entire salesforce to the same level and keeping them inspired.
Your website is your first impression
The consumer journey towards your offering has changed drastically. They discover your business via online search and this makes your website your storefront. Ensure you revamp your website to reflect your updated services and lead visitors to enquiries or even orders. And don’t forget to make it compatible for efficient mobile viewing. Most prospective customers start their search journey from their phones today.
All the above tips shared will take SMEs closer to keeping their head afloat, and even thrive in the current and future business atmosphere. While things get unpredictable, it’s always best to plan for the present, keeping the future in mind. Don’t stop innovating. Rely on tech. We will get to the other side of a thriving business environment together.
Alok Sharma is CEO, Shycocan Corporation, the Company behind a breakthrough new technology, the Shycocan. A virus attenuation device that can disable the entire Coronavirus and Influenza family of viruses with 99.9% efficacy in enclosed spaces as per multiple virology test reports from accredited laboratories globally. He’s the former MD of Apple India, an angel investor, entrepreneur, dad and eternal optimist.