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E-commerce for Small Businesses: From Local to Global and beyond

Photo by Greg Rosenke on Unsplash

Who had ever reckoned that a pandemic like Covid-19 could hit the world with its diabolical traction? Nobody. Life, though, hung back for a while, yet it resumed again with rejuvenated intensity and velocity. This is the new normal. And eventually, we are coming to terms with it. However, we have got an important lesson to learn from it. The future is uncertain. Let’s go with the flow.

How do you see through this? I am discovering it to be a period of optimism and innovation; that it has opened a sea of opportunities particularly for businesses to go digital and global. This in turn would allow them to become self-reliant and thriving. Ever since our Honourable Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi facilitated the concept of ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ and ‘Vocal for Local’, India is seeing a new dawn in the field of entrepreneurship. Today, we can see a surge of local entrepreneurs emerging as a strong voice not just for themselves, but for others too, wherein they are creating employment opportunities and inspiring like-minded people.

PM Narendra Modi said and I quoteWhen the world is in crisis, we must pledge — a pledge which is bigger than the crisis itself. We must strive to make the 21st century India’s century. And the path to do that is self-reliance

Examples of some local brands that served the nation in times of crisis-

  • Patanjali is a private consumer goods company which is headquartered in Uttarakhand, India. It aims at establishing Ayurveda with the latest technology and wisdom. Its wide-ranging products include personal care, food products, cosmetics, beauty, medicines, and clothing.

  • Fab India started in 1960 as an Indian chain store that specializes in handmade garments, furnishings, fabrics, ethnic products, made by craftsmen across India. Their products are now ranging from home furnishings, textiles, garments, stationery, organic foods, body care products to ceramics.

  • Khadi Naturals is a leading manufacturer, exporter, and supplier for Khadi natural products founded in 1963, with the coverage of 18 (eighteen) states all over India. It focuses on herbal active ingredients, organically grown plant extracts. They aim at preserving the traditional crafts of India and create employment opportunities. One of the core products of Khadi Naturals is MediMix which now has a significant consumer share in the market.

  • Ghadi that started in UP in 1987 caters to the need for economy class people, targeting common man and mediocre housewives and selling its products at very reasonable and affordable rates.

  • Parle was founded in 1929 in Mumbai, India’s finance capital. It dominated the front of the biscuit with its famous brand Parle.

Some of the decade’s old Indian brands like Dabur India- an FMCG Company famous for parachute oil, Dabur honey; Amul- India’s largest dairy brand, Bisleri-packaged, and mineral water producer, align themselves with the vision of vocal for local and pride themselves on being a ‘Swadeshi’.

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‘Swadeshi’ is not merely a term. It’s a feeling. It’s a connection, a bond that binds an individual with their nation in a deeper way. Aatmanirbhar Bharat and Vocal for Local have paved the way for numerous local voices, that are serving the nation in times of crisis. The emergence of local voices across the nation is aligning itself with technologies, making the most out of it, allowing their business to go digital, and creating job opportunities thereby leading to the nation-building process. This initiative aims at boosting local handmade products, encouraging Indian craftsmen across the nation to contribute in the time of crisis and promoting more and more job creation for them. Today, we can find numerous local handmade products being promoted on several e-commerce platforms.

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A new revolution began. And thanks to E-Commerce which is playing a substantial role in revolutionizing businesses. The definition of E-Commerce is not merely constrained by what we used to read in our textbooks. Its scope and impact are getting wider and powerful respectively. Today many local and handmade products like masks, spiritual products like incense sticks, candles, etc. are available on e-commerce sites like Amazon, Shopify. These sites are seeing an astounding growth in terms of retail sales by neighborhood stores in the country.

Amazon said it piloted the “Local Shops on Amazon” program six months ago and has already on-boarded 5,000 local shops and retails from over 100 cities across India.

Gopal Pillai, VP, Seller Services, said and I quote- “We are excited about the possibilities opened up by this programme. We intend to take the learnings from months of running this pilot and also its effectiveness during Covid-19, to scale this India-first initiative including shopkeepers and retailers across India,

“We’re really excited to announce this partnership with SingTel,” said Harley Finkelstein, Shopify’s Chief Platform Officer. “We built Shopify to allow anyone with a product or a service to easily create beautiful and highly scalable online stores, at an affordable price. SingTel is the ideal partner for us, as we’re both focused on helping small businesses succeed in today’s global economy. Together, we can help millions of small businesses and individuals build profitable online shops.”

It’s a matter of pride for every individual like me to have come across a social venture like ‘Mitti Ke Rang’ which is dedicated to empowering women, widows, and single women. This venture aims at helping women entrepreneurs to launch their businesses and compete in the marketplace. They eliminate barriers for small and medium-sized women-owned businesses and support micro and nano enterprises in poor, rural areas in India and around the globe. Today ‘Mitti Ke Rang’ has become a strong voice for these enterprises by promoting their products on e-commerce platforms like Amazon and Shopify.

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The future of e-commerce is brighter than ever as, people, nowadays, resort to the online system of shopping rather than traditional methods. However, there are certain strategies, which if adhered to, would help in boosting the sales of small businesses during Covid-19.

Strategies to boost sales radically-

  • Promoting businesses on an e-commerce platform like Amazon, Shopify, etc would act as great access for any businesses be it small or big, to grow and thrive.

  • Know your target customers and provide them with an easy, quick, and hassle-free shopping experience.

  • Advanced filtering options (price, brand, colour, etc) would enable its customers to have a customised shopping experience.

  • Attractive offers, discounts, and vouchers would help in retaining its existing customers and captivating new customers.

  • Customer reviews and feedbacks would enable new buyers to have an insightful experience about the products, sellers, and delivery services. In a nutshell, experiences shared by existing buyers would act as an aid for the new buyers.

  • More secured payment options like digital wallets (Amazon Pay, Google Pay, etc), other UPI apps, credit cards, debit cards, and if possible Cash on Delivery COD) services should be allowed which in turn would help in boosting sales of the businesses.

  • A reasonable delivery charge should be quoted, else, this discourages potential buyers from buying products which thereby, acts as a hindrance in boosting sales. Free shipping or complimentary shipping charges can be allowed if the purchase exceeds a specific value.

Today, this revolution has led to the emergence of several dynamic entrepreneurs across the globe. Not only that, in a country like India, the emergence of women entrepreneurs across the nation is blurring all lines of gender inequalities. E-Commerce is not just changing the way of doing business but changing the way we think.

The Women Entrepreneurship Platform (WEP):

Many schemes are being launched by the government of India to boost entrepreneurship, including schemes that empower women to create their own identities. The Women Entrepreneurship Platform (WEP) is among them.

Launched by NITI Aayog, WEP aims at providing an ecosystem for budding and existing women entrepreneurs across the country. SIDBI has partnered with NITI Aayog to assist in this initiative. WEP is built on three pillars- Iccha Shakti, Gyaan Shakti, and Karma Shakti

  • Iccha Shakti represents motivating aspiring entrepreneurs to start their businesses.

  • Gyaan Shakti represents providing knowledge and ecosystem support to women entrepreneurs to help them foster entrepreneurship.

  • Karma Shakti represents providing hands-on support to entrepreneurs in setting up and scaling up a business.

Scheme Benefits & Highlights

In addition to providing services such as free credit ratings, mentorship, funding support to women entrepreneurs, apprenticeship, and corporate partnerships; WEP will encourage entrepreneurs to share their entrepreneurial journeys, stories & experiences to nurture mutual learning.

WEP platform, as a driver of change, will also promote offline initiatives and outreach programmes to promote entrepreneurial spirit among potential women entrepreneurs, in collaboration with partner organizations.

Also, WEP offers incubation and acceleration support to women-founded / co-founded Start-Ups through its various partners who handhold women entrepreneurs registered with WEP and provide the necessary support to help them start and scale-up.

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Local entrepreneurs need support, opportunities, and a platform to showcase their skills, their craftsmanship on a massive scale. It is disheartening to witness that due to poor access to resources, infrastructure, technologies, etc, they are left behind as they fail to compete with others. Their voices need to be heard. This would reduce their plight, make them competitive and allow them to sell their products not just in India but globally too.

Contributed By- Payal Mazumdar, Content Writer at Mitti Ke Rang

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Mitti Ke Rang is a Social Venture working towards generating livelihood for women.

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