Small and Medium-Sized- Enterprises (SMEs) play a key role in national economies around the world both in developed and developing countries: generating employment and contributing to GDP growth. Small businesses act as important tools to achieve environmental sustainability and more inclusive growth.
Over the last few decades, globalization, rapid technological advances and dizzying products development have propelled small- and medium-scale enterprises (SMEs) toward sustainable innovation to gain competitive advantage. The growth of this space is now threatened by the devastating impact of the covid-19 pandemic.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that causes COVID-19 has mutated (changed), resulting in new variants of the virus (Delta variant and omicron variant are examples of notable variants). The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic affected every industry as it disrupted supply chains and forced the shutdown of various businesses. The period of closure and movement prevention policies adopted by governments in many countries have greatly affected SMEs, paralysing their operations, weakening their financial positions, and exposing them to financial risk
Unfortunately, after months of steady decline, COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are creeping back up which is of great concern globally. As the world is adjusting gradually to the new normal, it is very necessary for SMEs to take advantage of leveraging on sustainable innovation and strategies in growing their business beyond.
Various strategies have been identified as potential drive which SMEs can use to improve their competitiveness in global markets amidst developing covid-19 variant:
- Networking and Flexible production strategies: SME’s can exploit the networking space to identify new markets and promote their products through various online sales platform. These online channels offers enormous opportunities such as e-commerce sales and lower operating cost.
- Continuous Entrepreneurial Skills Development: entrepreneurial capabilities are also important in increasing the development and survival rates of start-ups. There is need to keep growing new skills and ideas in maintaining sustainable business growth.
- Improve on product branding: SMEs should make branding an integral part of their business plan rather than an afterthought. Branding helps in creating demand for products and services, resulting in faster sales. Even for B2B business, branding creates recognition, reputation and trust resulting in better conversions.
- Adapting to current market trends: market trend keeps changing and unpredictable because of these newly discovered variant cases. SMEs need to be monitoring trends in their product/service markets continuously to ensure customers satisfaction requirements are met and changes in customer preferences are caught early.
- Preplanning and learning from experience: Preplanning has always been considered a strategic management process that helps to fight against uncertainties. Outbreak of Covid-19 created a wake-up call regarding external uncertainty and degradation in the social and economic development. SMEs should identify substitutes for product ingredients ahead of disruptions or be able to pivot to new products in case of problems with some products.
Behind every crisis is an opportunity, as the saying goes but opportunity favours only those who are prepared. The 2008 global financial meltdown hit so hard and created disruption that will remain fresh in the minds of many people for years to come. To those who were prepared, the economic recession was the best of times and to those who weren’t prepared; it was the worst of times. The global economic recession came like a tsunami and swept away lots of businesses; both big and small.
The business environment is continually changing all over the world, SMEs are central to the collective goal of increasing productivity turnover and ensuring that the benefits from increased globalisation are sustained. SMEs entrepreneurial opportunities represent an important vector for economic and social participation.
Greater flexibility and capacity to plan can give SMEs a competitive advantage in global markets relative to the current new normal economy challenges, as they are able to respond rapidly to changing market conditions.
The Covid-19 pandemic is the new normal and it seems it will be with us for a while. The introduction of new virus variants will keep changing the dynamics of doing business worldwide. While the prospects for many SMEs may look discouraging, the pandemic still presents opportunities for businesses that are proactive. A good example are the companies that pivoted from making gels or other FMCG products to manufacturing hand sanitizers. It is advisable now for SMEs to assess the damages their companies may face and strategically create protection measures that will assist in mitigating the impact of the pandemic while maximizing the opportunities that will most certainly present themselves once the pandemic is contained.
Author- Gbolahan Owoeye