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Industry Dialogue | Small Businesses Going Online Now Is The Big Push Towards Atmanirbhar Bharat

Representative image.

Representative image.

In early 2020, out of the 75 million MSMEs based in India, only 16-18 million (23%) had a social media presence, an online listing or a website. Out of 5 million domain names registered in India, only half had a website behind them. But all this has changed in the last few months.

Unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures. The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted businesses like never before. Micro and Small Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) have been hit especially hard on account of lack of capital and business continuity plans. To help such businesses and re-ignite economic activity, the government announced an economic stimulus package called ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan’ or Self-Reliant India Movement. The package had a host of reforms and incentives for various segments. However, a large part of it was directed towards MSMEs, as they are undoubtedly the backbone of the Indian economy. The government made available a total of Rs 3 lakh crore so that MSMEs can avail automatic collateral-free loans via banks to offset operational liabilities. An additional Rs 20,000 crore was also promised as subordinate debt for stressed MSMEs.

The Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan not just focused on businesses in need, but also took into consideration those whose growth plans have been stunted due to the lockdown. To this effect, it made available Rs 50,000 crore through Funds of Funds for businesses looking to scale and get listed on the stock exchange. The reality still is, that the Coronavirus, or COVID pandemic is fast-tracking digitisation. MSMEs have traditionally lagged behind when it comes to taking the digital leap. In spite of this, they contribute significantly, which is about 28%, to India’s GDP, coming next to only the agriculture sector. As per a Kantar IMRB report from 2017, only 2% of MSMEs actively used digital platforms while a staggering 68% were completely offline.

Even as recent as early 2020, out of the 75 million MSMEs based in India, only 16-18 million (23%) had a social media presence, an online listing or a website (as per Zinnov Consulting). Moreover, out of 5 million domain names registered in India, only half had a website behind them. But all this has changed in the last few months. The pandemic brought with it brand new challenges, the most severe being physical lockdowns and the inability to serve one’s customers. But, what this has done is pushed businesses online. The same businesses that were resistant to digital transformation have now moved to the online medium in order to survive the lockdown. According to a survey by Endurance International Group, the parent company of web presence brands such as HostGator, Bluehost, and BigRock, a staggering 30% of MSMEs that had no digital presence started a website or extended their business to e-commerce during the lockdown.

This move has paid off for MSMEs as revenue contribution from e-commerce increased close to 50% during COVID-19. Preference for using digital is now estimated at 1.9X more than traditional sales interactions.

Tips to be online

If you are an MSME and have not created an online presence, the time to do it is now. There are some very compelling benefits that can help your business survive, thrive and grow. The biggest advantage is that it can help you reach a wider customer audience. An online presence such as a website can also help customers find you easily. A website can help you create a brand, build reputation and increase credibility with minimal cost. By going digital, you can undertake cost-effective marketing via social media, email, and more to increase your bottom line. The good news is that building a digital presence is extremely easy and economical thanks to plug and play solutions by forward thinking companies. Here are some ways you can come online.

Build a website: A website is the most important step towards becoming digital. This is where your customers find you and learn about your products and services. Use a reputed web hosting service and web platform to create a website that is user-friendly and professional looking, and has all the required information about you and your business.

Leverage social media: Build a presence on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter. These are all powerful tools to reach your customer base and provide them with the help that they need.

Start a blog: Content marketing has proven to be very effective. The best way to do it is via a blog on your website. Providing valuable information creates trust and builds your reputation as a thought leader and an expert in the field.

Use email to reach out: Create a database of your customers and send personalised emails to them. This helps build relationships with customers as well as drive leads.

Engage your customers: Social media, instant messaging etc. are a great way of staying in touch with customers, understanding their needs and concerns, and building interpersonal relationships with them.

The time is now. Take advantage of the economic stimulus and create a digital presence for your business.

About The Author

Manish Dalal is SVP and General Manager, Endurance Group - APAC. He is responsible for overseeing the Endurance International Group’s APAC business, including ResellerClub, BigRock, Bluehost,, HostGator and LogicBoxes. He has worked for leading technology companies such as Motorola, Yahoo! and Verisign, with roles that spanned engineering, product management, global partnerships and general management. Most recently, he was vice president and general manager for Verisign APAC, and grew the company’s business across India, China, Japan, South Korea, and Southeast Asia. Manish is an active mentor with several incubators, including GSF Accelerator and Microsoft Accelerator. He is a graduate of University of Chicago (MBA), Cornell University (MS Electrical Engineering) and Rochester Institute of Technology (BS Computer Engineering).

Editors' Note: This article is part of the 25 Years of Internet In India series, where we try to capture how the state of mobiles, home broadband, services and content have evolved, particularly in the past few years. We try to understand what the internet means for us, be it for the new reality of work from home, for entertainment and the Netflix binge watching, music streaming, online gaming and more. With the Industry Dialogue being a multi-part series by, the industry talks about the impact of digitisation, the adoption of technology by the masses, the proliferation of smartphones and the wider demographic going online, and what that means for India going forward.

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