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Practical thoughts about business post COVID-19 for MSMEs

At the outset, let us start with admitting that we do not even know when “post COVID-19” phase will start. As I write this, while the lockdowns across the world are being relaxed, the Virus is very much active, spreading, mutating and infectious. The relaxations are more from economic compulsions than victory over the Virus.

Worldwide, governments, people and businesses have accepted that we have to stay with this new Virus and get on to “business as unusual”.

There are enough expert talks, scholarly studies, statistical forecasts and political promises talking about everything possible about the COVID-19, its effects, after effects and so on. By now, everyone is an expert on the Virus in his/her own right!

This article is not about what is going to happen, but more about some practical tips on what an MSME could do to survive this economic catastrophe.

by DB Prabhu : Author, Entrepreneur, Alumnus of IIM Bangalore, Gold Medalist for Innovation in environment centric business, named among the global top 50 thought leaders in startups, Founder of Respose Waste Management and Research Pvt Ltd

First and foremost, they will have to start thinking like a Startup.

They have to stay operational, liquid, hungry and creative.

For many urban MSMEs, their labour force may have dwindled due to this virus scare. Also, the working norms of the new normal will mean that you will be able to do less than ever in your available space and with the available people. Therefore, transforming your operations drastically will hold the key.

Look at your normal business processes. Examine each and everything that you do. Evaluate whether it is possible to do anything differently. Evaluate process automation, outsourcing or even doing away with some non-value adding activities. This is akin to a surgical process. A completely detached third party view of your business may be required for carrying out this surgery.

Next, look at your cash flows. Work out how much you have, work out your receivables and payments due. Many gurus are advising to talk to vendors and ask for credits and talk to customers and ask for advance payments. Keep in mind, it will simply not work. It will only lead to a stalemate situation. You are also a customer for someone and a vendor to someone else. You need to break out of this circle.

Explore the possibility of getting external capital. Government of India has announced some great schemes. Find out what suits you. Get the money and get going. Holding on to your money is not going to help. Profit-making activity is important. That will ease the liquidity situation going further.

Read more from this author : More Blogs on Startups | Business | Economics

Stay hungry for business. That doesn’t mean simply asking for orders and aggressive selling. That won’t work too. In fact, selling, as we know it, will not work anymore. It will be simply educating about your value proposition. But what I mean by staying hungry is to find new areas for business.

Spreading out your business in multiple areas is more important than ever. It is a very effective risk mitigation strategy. Hunt for new business opportunities. Every single problem that you see and feel that someone else should solve is a business opportunity.

Can you find a problem?

Can you think about possible solutions to this?

Do you think people will pay for the solution?

If the answer for all the 3 is yes, you have a business case.

A classic example is waste management. It is a definite problem. No one wants to work in it. There are solutions. People will pay for this service. Besides, the operations will fetch some good money as well. It is a classic business case. There is room for many new entrants in this space. At least a few thousand organized players are needed. Explore. And explore other areas too. Online consulting, Selling Books, Online event organization, Manufacturing of mobile ICUs, there are many possibilities.

Finally, the 4th point is being creative. Not from a visual design perspective. But from perspectives of product strategy, promotion strategy, pricing and packaging, operating processes and financial models.

The Corona Virus is not just a game-changer, it is a game equalizer. Everyone starts from more or less the same point. So in a way, everyone is a startup. So think like a startup. Not the tech startups created to sell off but like the ones created for serving and sustaining in the long run. That alone will see you through these tough times.


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