It is a known fact that the pandemic that hit us last year has had a ripple effect across businesses, irrespective of their pocket-size. It forced business owners to rethink & re-strategize, and those who were quick on their feet managed to stay afloat. Unfortunately, micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) were hit the hardest, impacting more than 70% of global employment. 

At BharatPe, MSMEs or merchants are at the core of everything we do. In 2018, we started out with the objective of building simple yet powerful fintech products that can help transform the way MSMEs accept payments, thus, empowering these businesses & informal setups. While every business is different and each has its own set of risks & rewards, there are a few common strategies that can help MSMEs across the country to scale their business even in the face of unprecedented times like the ones we witnessed in 2020. 

Agility for survival

A survey by Endurance International Group showed that one-third of the Indian SMEs surveyed, temporarily shut down their business, hoping to reopen once normalcy resumes. However, in today’s uncertain scenario, survival depends on the pace of change. Businesses, irrespective of the industry that they operate in, have realized that evolving and pivoting in sync with the market environment is the key. This may include adopting newer or alternative technologies, changing modes or frequency of communication & transaction for consumers, building a different infrastructure, and more. If there was ever a time for business to build agility, it is now. 

Unlock the power of digital

As per a Financial Stability Report by RBI released in July 2020, it will be critical for SMEs to adopt a digital-first business model to be able to survive & grow in such unprecedented times. With a rapidly increasing number of consumers adopting online methods of purchase and digital modes of payment, businesses have no other option but to tailor their infrastructure to ensure a great customer experience. As per PwC, it was the businesses with digital profiles that continued to thrive and remain agile even in times of the pandemic. 

With an increasing number of consumers going cashless, MSMEs are expected to opt for new-age payment methods such as United payments interface (UPI), RuPay cards, FASTags, all-in-one quick response (QR), and many more. This shift in consumer behaviour has been propelled further in the light of COVID-19 and it is critical for organizations to provide the required ease and convenience to consumers. The businesses that offer quick, seamless and secure checkout experiences have a higher possibility of witnessing continued loyalty in today’s era.

QR-based payments have the potential to transform traditional practices of business-customer transactions, by enabling instant payments with top-grade security, higher reliability, and simple steps. QR-based payments are not only a safer and more convenient option for consumers, but it also provides MSMEs with a hassle-free experience. Also, it does away with unnecessary investment in payment or hardware infrastructure. All that is required by the merchant to enable a successful digital payment transaction is a bank account, a smartphone, a data connection, and the only infrastructure set up – a QR code sticker. 

Customer centricity with creativity

An age-old strategy that continues to remain at the heart of every successful venture is a customer-centric approach. The pandemic has had a huge impact on customer behaviour. They have now become even more selective about the brands that they intend to associate with. Brand purpose has suddenly taken precedence over the brand’s valuation. For customers, it is important that they are provided with a holistic brand experience and continuously kept engaged. Innovative and low-cost creative solutions such as creative content, digital events, contactless delivery, contactless transactions, adoption of new revenue streams, collaborations with other MSMEs, and many more options need to be explored by brands to ensure a higher level of customer engagement and NPS.

To conclude, these are just a few strategies that can help a business sail through these testing times. While businesses need to deal with their individual roadblocks, it is the agility and the focus on the customer that has to be the key.  

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