Compared to last year, this time SMBs were better prepared to deal with the disruptions posed by the pandemic and managed to shore up their resources.
By Pankaj Jathar, CEO, Prione
Headquartered in Bengaluru, Prione Business Services enables SMBs in the fast-growing digital economy through a host of services that helps them harness the benefits of the online marketplace and succeed in today’s digital economy. Over the past 6 years, Prione has spread its reach to 150+ cities across the country and empowered over 1 lakh SMBs on the online marketplace. In this interview, Pankaj Jathar, CEO shares his views on the recent developments in the SMB ecosystem in line with the second wave of the pandemic, key trends emerging in the sector and Prione’s efforts in empowering SMBs to succeed in the next normal.
1. How would you say the second wave has impacted the Indian SMB sector?
It is common knowledge that the second wave of the pandemic adversely affected the Indian SMB ecosystem. Localised lockdowns impacted operations leading to lost sales for several small businesses. With many key manufacturing hubs such as Tirupur being under lockdown there was a paucity of raw materials disrupting the operations of downstream manufacturers. Lack of production also led to lack of payments for businesses, drying up capital, hampering supply chain and labour resources for production. Various government import and export restrictions further compounded the challenges for the segment with many SMBs forced to scale down, shut down or sell their businesses in order to stay afloat.
2. Can you tell us what are some key trends emerging in the SMB ecosystem with regards to ecommerce?
Compared to last year, this time SMBs were better prepared to deal with the disruptions posed by the pandemic and managed to shore up their resources. The past 12 months have helped them recognise and appreciate the advantages that ecommerce can deliver. In fact, the second wave has triggered strong ecommerce tailwinds where we are witnessing a higher intent among SMBs to trial online marketplaces and digitise their businesses. As small businesses adapt to the next normal where consumers shop with a digital first mindset, direct to consumer launches are increasing multifold. It is expected that the online success of categories such as work from home essentials, groceries, consumables, healthcare and pharma will continue into the rest of the year. This will also be accelerated by the rise of value seeking customers who scout for better prices online before purchasing anything.
3. What have Prione’s recent efforts been to help the segment tackle their challenges?
Prione’s vision is to enable Indian SMBs in the fast growing digital economy by creation and upliftment of SMB capabilities. With this vision, we have spread our reach to over 150 cities across the country and have enabled over 1 lakh SMBs on the online marketplace. Additionally, we have also assisted close to 2 lakh sellers to do better business online via our account management team till date.
In the recent months, as SMBs battled the challenges brought forth by the pandemic, Prione has been actively working towards empowering the segment to harness the power of ecommerce and digital. While there have been shifts in consumer behaviour during the lockdowns, the fundamentals with regards to their expectations in terms of choice, value for money and ease of shopping have more or less remained the same. As SMBs adapt to online business models, it becomes important for them to ensure they successfully manage these expectations.
Through a host of services that includes helping SMBs jump start businesses online, digitize catalogues, drive social media campaigns and advertising as well as overall business management, Prione has been able to enable several success stories across India. Further, our teams have worked very closely with SMBs to help them identify growth categories, increase their sales, lower operational costs and mitigate the risks associated with COVID-19 and subsequent lockdowns.
Another key focus for Prione is the artisan and weaver communities in India. Karigar is an Amazon initiative to bring together one of the largest stores to feature a wide range of authentic crafts from Indian artisans and gives prominence to India’s rich heritage by enabling weavers and artisans to showcase ‘Made in India’ products to customers. As part of Karigar, Prione has helped and enabled close to 12 lakh artisans and 450+ crafts online. For example, Atypical Advantage is an organization that hosts a plethora of products ranging from paintings and jewellery to food and handmade crafts made by 500+ visually impaired people. By launching them online, we were able to aid their mission to create economic independence for people with disabilities. Over the years, through the Karigar initiative, Prione has onboarded over 27 Government emporiums and enabled master weavers, co-operatives, artisans and APEX bodies (including National Award-winning weavers) to sell online.
4. What are the opportunities Prione anticipates in the Indian ecosystem in 2021? How is the company positioned to address these?
Industry reports suggest that approximately 68% Indian SMBs seek to digitally transform themselves to introduce new products and services and differentiate themselves from the competition. In order to succeed in the next normal, SMBs will have to focus on capacity building in terms of resources and capital. It will become imperative for them to develop value added service skills such as cataloguing, photoshoots, account management, etc. to cater to and manage their businesses among growing demand. Prione is well positioned to help SMBs build these capabilities. Our account management teams understand the hurdles SMBs with low IT capabilities face and are trained professionals who can guide and support them to make seamless transitions. We have also developed specific customer training simulations for complex products and processes to make customer education more interactive and intuitive. Prione also helps SMBs get onboarded on Amazon Pay for seamless digital payments and has enabled over 3.5 million merchants on the platform. In the coming year, we look forward to continuing to deliver value to SMBs and helping them succeed.