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How Digital Platforms Helped Small Businesses Thrive During The Pandemic

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The future is digital, and the pandemic has left no doubt in our minds in enforcing this belief. With the emerging tech, the shift in consumer behavior, and the COVID-induced physical constraints, businesses are now required to rethink their marketing strategies and focus on developing their online presence.

While most enterprises have successfully risen to the occasion and established a virtual identity, small businesses, especially those in rural or semi-urban areas, have borne the brunt. With suffering revenues, a lack of knowledge, and practically no digital expertise, these organizations are often left clueless in anguish.

However, all is not lost for them just yet. On the upside, the pandemic has forced the otherwise ignorant SMEs to step out of their comfort zones and accept the need for technology for growth. They are now dropping their inhibitions and looking at the brighter side of the virtual picture.

Indian Shopkeeper Digital
Representational image.

Shift In Perspectives

While local businesses have been slow to catch up with the digital boom, they have slowly yet steadily risen to the occasion. The pandemic has coaxed them to shift their businesses online and adapt to the whole gamut of digital transformation.

This stands true for many brick-and-mortar stores as well. After learning it the hard way with practically no alternative, SMEs are now integrating technology in critical areas of function such as accounting, customer service, sales and marketing, inventory management, and lead generation.

Digital Initiatives

Along with the changing mindset of SMEs, the government, too, has rolled out several digital initiatives to help them stay afloat. One such means to revolutionize the Indian digital lending infrastructure is the India Stack. It allows credit extension to SMEs through quick and seamless Aadhar based authentications. The Digital India initiative also enables account aggregation for consent-based financial data collection and sharing along with easy adoption of digital payment solutions.

At the same time, conglomerates such as Google have also come to their rescue by acting upon the cause. The technology giant has partnered with third-party online platforms such as Swiggy and Dunzo to help SMEs build an online presence via the ‘Grow with Google Small Businesses hub’ in India.

The organization is further in the works with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI) to roll out an industry-wide digital skilling program with a focus on helping SMEs use digital tools in local Indian languages. The initiative is also complemented by a show called ‘Namaste Digital’ in association with Doordarshan that will carry home the message of digital transformation at the grassroots level.

Micro Level Actions

While the government and larger conglomerates have introduced a plethora of digital initiatives to support small businesses, their implementation stays sketchy. This is owing to the lack of knowledge and a direct connection with those who are far from it all. Local artisans and rural-based businesses are still grappling to come to terms with social media, smartphones, and the world wide web.

However, collectives and non-profits have been quick to act. Several of them are now training local artisans and SMEs in remote areas in ways to click photographs, use social media platforms, and adopt digital payment modes.

Representational image.

For instance, Tata Trust’s craft-based livelihood initiative Antaran is carrying out mentoring sessions for local businesses via its YouTube channel, Antaran Knowledge Centre. Similarly, Dastkar, a society for crafts and craftsmen, started its online store in September last year to enable artisans to reach a wider customer base.

Another such organization that has come to the fore to help artisans is GoCoop, India’s first online marketplace for craftspeople. It partnered with Creative Dignity to train SMEs in the digital sphere amid the pandemic.

Similarly, in understanding the role of technology in bridging the gap between grass root artisans and global buyers, social engine Lal10 is now looking to work on a customized SaaS solution to provide ease of transactions to both the sellers and buyers. It also has in place an on-ground team to help local sellers with their queries and help them bag the best prices for their products.

The MSME industry contributes about 29% to India’s GDP, with local artisans forming the backbone of non-farming rural India. It is therefore important to support, safeguard, and promote their growth via digital means.

By using the right digital techniques and strategies, SMEs can enter the expanding virtual arena and ensure a smooth and steady flow of income in the future. It is high time that we have an all-encompassing adoption of a ‘Digital India,’ after all!

References

https://lifestyle.livemint.com/fashion/trends/the-gap-between-tech-and-the-artisan-111614409197937.html

https://www.theweek.in/news/biz-tech/2020/07/07/how-digital-marketing-can-help-small-businesses-during-a-pandemic.html

https://www.livemint.com/companies/news/google-partners-online-firms-to-bring-smbs-online-11601459139066.html

https://inc42.com/resources/covid-19-role-of-technology-in-reviving-small-businesses-in-india/

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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