Celebrating the grit and resilience of the many small businesses that rebuilt themselves by going online

The arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 wielded a massive economic impact on many communities. The subsequent lockdown imposed to control the spread of the virus was particularly paralyzing for small businesses which had to shut physical operations. With zero market access, financial fragility, and uncertainty that the pandemic brought along, business owners were in a fix to find a contingency plan. Ishan Soni from Delhi is one such small business entrepreneur who had to wade through some terrible tides after the pandemic set in.

Ishan, who runs Northland India, a flagship gift store for millennials in the heart of Delhi at Connaught Place, recounts how the first wave of the pandemic severely affected business operations. Once the crisis set foot in India in March, Northland had to be shut as per Covid protocols. This was followed by an almost zero-sale period because of the lockdown and while Ishan hoped that things would get better after the various phases of Unlock, it wasn’t as expected.

He says, “
The initial leg of the pandemic was extremely difficult for small offline traders because there was no other source to sell our products during the lockdown. Even after the lockdown was lifted, people were not out in the market as there was a lot of fear. We had only about 25% footfalls in the first three months after the first lockdown. This was the point when we as a team realised the need to have a strong plan to bounce things up and improve operations.

For Ishaan and his team, finding a market again came with many challenges. Amid the pandemic, with cities partially functioning, the need for basic essentials overwhelmingly outweighed the need for gifts and other luxuries. So, even when people were stepping out to buy daily items, the probability of visiting a gift shop was low. So, naturally, even the lockdown being lifted could not boost sales as per Ishan’s expectations. However, this realization led Ishan to take a decision that he is extremely proud of today. In an attempt to increase the market outreach for Northland India and enhance sales, Ishan decided to sell his original products online.

Northland flagged off its digital journey on Amazon and this was one move that overturned its business overnight. “
I was always aware of e-commerce websites like Amazon but never did I imagine that the response would be so huge. We are so delighted to get orders from places as far off as Pondicherry and even the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. If we had not hopped onto Amazon, we would never have been able to serve such a diverse base of customers!

With orders pouring in from different parts of the country today, Ishan feels that it is important for small business owners to take their ventures online. The online and offline combination has been working perfectly for Northland India and this has played a big role in boosting business outreach and revenue inflows. Ishan displayed tremendous grit and confidence while bringing Northland back to its feet during this terrible time. Hopping online comes with its own set of readaptations which the team patiently learnt and executed during this time. Currently, with things finally normalizing, Northland continues to operate successfully both online and offline, having perfectly adapted to the changing times.

Watch this video to know Ishan’s journey:
Like Ishan’s Northland India, there are many other small business ventures that scaled themselves up after hopping onto online platforms. After the pandemic’s detrimental impact on these businesses, they boosted their operations, outreach, and revenue by selling their products digitally. But it isn’t just small entrepreneurs who embraced the online route to sustain and grow during the pandemic. Some every day retailers that we often encounter in the market also took a similar route. Often when we talk about the effects of the pandemic on small businesses, we forget to include retailers in the conversation, who were maybe slightly more badly hit than businesses. However, going online was fruitful for them too.

One such retail outlet is Mohammed Siddiq’s Perfect Power Solutions. Based in Bengaluru, Siddiq’s venture deals with inverter batteries. While it is a commodity that not everyone needs on a daily basis, it is desperately needed in times of emergencies, especially during the last two years. But how could Siddiq sell them when his shop was closed? This was when Siddiq was advised to go online. He recounts,
“After the first lockdown when shops were ordered to be shut, I was barely able to live on my savings. This was when a colleague advised me to sell via an online medium like Amazon. At that time, I was slightly unaware of the benefits that it could yield because I’ve always been an offline seller. My colleague however explained to me how online platforms like Amazon work and how I could benefit from it in the longer run. After that, there has been a constant increase in the number of customers. Many people from remote corners of the country are placing orders and this feels really good.”

After hopping online, Perfect Power Solutions catered to a diverse list of customers and has experienced tremendous growth. In fact, after going online, Siddiq received at least 5 orders each day, for the next 30 days! Siddiq says how the online route is equally beneficial to both the small business and the customers. He says,
“There are many discounts on our products that people can get on online platforms like Amazon, say during the festive season. There is also the option for free delivery. This way it is quite easy to increase the customer base.”

Screenshot 2021-09-21 151536 (1)ET Spotlight

Today, Siddiq has been successful in not just expanding his business but also supporting his employees when it was most needed. With his supply meeting demand perfectly, Siddiq now runs both the online and offline ventures the way he always wanted to.

Here is Siddiq’s story:

Like Siddiq and Ishan, there are many other small businesses and retailers who displayed immense strength and resilience while taking their online journeys on platforms like Amazon. Amazon, for instance, is made up of many small businesses that have seen growth and success after tremendous hard work. These small businesses and Amazon have worked in synergy to deliver to people across the country a range of products and services, even amid a global pandemic. Amazon has supported this spirit of entrepreneurship by providing them with a country-wide customer reach, reducing shipment cost, logistical assistance, easy inventory management, and easy listing of products etc. In fact, it is the spirit of these sellers, local shops and small business owners that make Amazon. In its latest campaign #WeAreAmazon, Amazon pays an ode to the journey of resilience, hard work and success of these many small businesses that are on Amazon. Featuring various entrepreneurs across the country, these films showcase the scale and diversity of small businesses. Know more about the campaign


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