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Strategies to Help Small Businesses Stay Competitive in Tough Times   

Today, India is slated to have approximately 6.3 crore MSMEs (Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises). As per data by the MSME ministry, 30,00,822 MSMEs were registered on the Udyam Registration portal.
No doubt, the pandemic shook the foundation of small businesses in India. However, India's small businesses continue to fire up the GDP and play a key role in the country's socio-economic development. Their survival is key to job creation, innovation and sustainable livelihoods nationwide. Let's look at some of the key strategies that small businesses must adopt to stay relevant and competitive in the toughest times. 

Build a Network of High-Trust Suppliers 
Many small businesses make the mistake of liaisoning with one or two suppliers. Some of them have also been overtly dependent on sourcing materials from a market like China. No doubt, loyalty and keeping costs low are key requirements in building relationships and a solid business model. However, shortages or delays can disrupt the entire pipeline. For example, the Covid-19 pandemic and ensuing lockdowns caused supplier delays for 38.8% of US small businesses.
Expanding the pool and building a strong network of high-trust local suppliers and manufacturing alternatives is key to ensuring the sustainability of the business in any circumstance. It's also a good idea to think outside the box. For instance, a food business might want to cultivate homemakers in the neighbourhood who can meet the demand for a locally made delicacy. 

Invest in High-Value Customer Communication
It's natural that during a crisis, supplies may get impacted. This could lead to delays in customers receiving their orders. At times, orders may also get cancelled due to an inability to predict the product's availability in the future. 
A key stakeholder in any small business is the customer. Proactively communicating about delays is key to building trust. Luckily, there is no dearth of platforms for effective communication; small businesses can leverage email, newsletters, messaging platforms and social media to build authentic, high-empathy, concise communications. In India, customers prefer communication with brands via their social media channels, with Facebook having a 65% preference rate. Hence it is not surprising that more small businesses are investing in growing their social media footprint than ever before. 

Make Data a Steadfast Companion 
By January 2021, India had 624 million internet users; between 2020 to 2021 itself, there was a 47 million jump! With so much data entering business ecosystems, digitising operations will enable small businesses to leverage data in real-time and make key business decisions promptly. According to a survey conducted by Mckinsey, 65% of respondents from small businesses report a higher rate of success with process automation as compared to the 55% from larger businesses.
Industry leaders such as Dell Technologies have invested in building solutions geared to ensure the success of small businesses. An inspiring story is that of entrepreneur Ignacio Juarez, who invented the world’s most affordable wind turbine with the aim of democratising clean energy. With the help of Dell for Entrepreneurs and Innovative Technology, Juarez's company, Semtive, is successfully scaling and building a future where all people can live more sustainably.    
Investing in the right tech empowers small businesses to gather, synthesise and protect valuable data while freeing up time to focus on key outcomes that will ensure the sustainability of the business. 

Lead from the Front 
The power of internal communication is often underrated in a crisis. The lack thereof can confuse teams and create low internal morale, chaos and poor communication with customers. 
However, testing times can be a transformative experience. It can lead to the birth of new opportunities and product pivots based on real-time customer needs. It's important to have the right mindset during these times and communicate to teams with a clear vision.   
A recent survey states that 83% of working professionals rely on technology for internal collaboration, and without it, 82% of the respondents would feel lost. Hence, adapting to the changing technological landscape not just with the customers but also internally will ensure that smaller businesses sail through smoothly. 

Staying innovative, consistent and trustworthy in tough times will help small businesses stay competitive in an increasingly digitised world. Investing early in the best tech is an investment in future progress. Find solutions that are tailored to your specific needs, and take the leap into the future of business.