Retail

Covid lessons for SMEs: An urgent need for upskilling to grow


The pandemic has hit the economy hard, small, and micro-entrepreneurs and small business owners are the most affected. But, there is another crucial aspect to it, the pandemic has brought about many changes in how businesses are being done now. It is being termed as the ‘new normal’ way of doing things. Many of these changes are likely to be permanent, at least for the foreseeable future, as they serve all functions involved in the business/transaction cycle. Hence, entrepreneurs and businesses need to keep abreast of these changes and adapt and adopt them by upskilling themselves to stay in sync with the time and its demands.

Even as the pandemic rages on, 2021 is still the best time for upskilling. Internet has become the common meeting ground for all businesses and their customers. Customer transactions and other business processes are mostly internet-led today. This has led to an unprecedented rise in the importance of having a well-built website, social media marketing efforts, presence on relevant online platforms and other avenues of digital practices. Those who have already been trained academically for futuristic growth can leverage these new opportunities and routes faster. Their training also equips them with skills to quickly spot and improvise or even completely change their business models to more modern and profitable ones. The importance of the marketing funnel continues to be paramount in a business-customer relationship.

The next question for SMEs is: what specific things can one learn? Business owners must review their enterprise from two angles – customer-facing processes and back-end processes. An assessment from both these angles will throw light on the aspects which need upskilling.

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Importance of Technical Aspects of Marketing Process: A review of your marketing funnel is imperative given the dramatic changes in customers’ demands. People have a vast number of choices available hence extra effort is needed to ensure that potential clients or customers choose you over others.

Staying updated on current marketing trends and applying

concepts to business will help. There are many online courses available but you need to choose wisely to get an edge over the competitors.

Possibility of Making More Profits: While the economy continues to remain impacted by the pandemic, it also provides a great opportunity to have a closer look at the ways of doing business. Focusing on cost optimization by relooking at the traditional ways of running the business and bringing more efficiency may help in making it more profitable.

Courses in project management impart the knowledge and skills to maximize efficiency and quality of deliverables to the clients and employees. Training and courses related to leadership and team management can also be a vast upskill area.

The Importance of Having An Internet Presence: It is a no-brainer that an online identity is a critical tool for business survival, and the pandemic has fuelled its criticality. Small business owners need to understand this. The importance of SEO for optimum visibility, well-planned social media campaigns, leveraging email marketing, optimum usage of paid online ads and even adopting omnichannel marketing plans for visibility, sales, and revenue.

An Expanding Frontier: The demand for digital products in the post-pandemic era is going to increase. Students are studying online, professional courses are being conducted here, and work from home is here to stay. Digitalization is set to become the deciding factor in the market share at the local and national levels in many fields.

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Hence, business owners must understand the dynamics of creating digital-first businesses. By doing available courses, founders can make their businesses ready for the future.

What Lies Beyond Covid-19?

This question is troubling almost everyone. Even with the projected completion of the vaccination drive by the year-end, recovery will take time. Many pandemic-time changes will continue to be a norm as they have resulted into new customer habits and demands. Therefore, the intervening time must be utilized for readying oneself for the future. Be aware of the changes happening in your business environment to spot possible growth areas early on. There will be a boom with various opportunities once recovery mode kicks off. Small business owners need to ensure that they possess the required upgraded skills through conscious applications to better their overall standing in their business area.

(The writer is Managing Director- RICS School of Built Environment, Amity University)



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