If you’re like the other SME business owners we interact with, you are probably checking your phone every hour to keep up with the evolving COVID-19 Omicron situation in your state right now.
We understand. Your business is your baby, and the past two years have been tough on all SMEs, so you want to have a mitigation plan in place before stringent COVID-19 health and safety measures are announced. To help you prepare and avoid major disruptions in operations despite rising COVID-19 cases, here are CreditEnable’s top tips to prepare your business for 2022.
Tip #1 – Enforce social distancing and masking norms within your workplace
The easiest step you can take to provide your employees and your customers with a safe and hygienic space is by disallowing overgrowing. Ask everyone to maintain a 6-feet distance from one another and ensure they are always masked.
We understand, practically, wearing a mask may not always be possible – you’ll need to take it off to eat, drink, or to get a free breath of fresh air. But with Omicron, the latest highly transmissible variant of COVID-19 on the rise in India, try to avoid taking your mask off in enclosed public spaces as much as possible.
When it’s lunchtime or time for a tea break, encourage your employees to eat outside in an open space and soak up some of that winter sun. Alternatively, if that is not a viable option where you work, eat in small batches, and avoid sharing food to minimize the risk of infection.
Tip #2 – Enforce proper hand hygiene in your workplace
Set up a sanitization station right by your front door. All customers and employees entering must have their temperature checked, sanitize their hands, and wear a mask before entering. This will put your customers at ease, signalling that you take their health and safety seriously and give them the confidence to patronize your business.
We also encourage you to sanitize your workstations and other frequently touched surfaces like stair railings, elevator buttons, light switches, and door handles at least once every 1-2 hours.
Tip #3 – Encourage your employees to get their COVID-19 vaccinations if they aren’t already fully vaccinated
Currently in India, all adults older than 18 years of age are eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccination. This means everyone over 18 can be fully or partially vaccinated if they want to.
Given this, help your employees register for their vaccine doses if they aren’t already vaccinated. We know there is still a lot of vaccine hesitancy and misinformation about the vaccines. Direct your employees to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) Awareness resources that address such topics and debunk vaccine myths. These Awareness resources are available in both Hindi and English.
As of January 3, 2022, teenagers between 15-18 years are also eligible for the first dose of the vaccine now. If you or someone you know has children in this age group, encourage and help them register to get the vaccine.
The MoHFW also has a live vaccine tracker on their website, and they also upload any new COVID-19 guidelines issued by the central government there.
Tip #4 – Help your employees apply for travel passes if travel restrictions are imposed
If the situation worsens and stricter travel guidelines are imposed in your state, then help your employees procure the necessary travel passes and clearance they need to report to work. While all workplaces have been encouraged to Work from Home, some essential sectors and services require people to come into work. In this scenario, help each other as much as possible so that your manpower and operations are not disrupted.
Tip #5 – Invest in or increase your digital marketing efforts
Since the start of the pandemic, most small businesses have adopted at least one form of digital technology to keep their businesses alive. Accepting digital payments using PhonePe, Paytm, or Google Pay is the easiest digital intervention you can make. The next step is exploring how you can use digital marketing platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Google Ads to get the word out about your services. These platforms are a cost-efficient way to reach a more targeted audience digitally.
You can also explore platforms like trade-specific Facebook Groups to get the word out and connect with other businesses. Facebook in India has several such moderated communities where manufacturers and tradespeople can directly connect with sellers and customers.
Tip #6 – Establish a protocol that supports online ordering and delivery
If you work in the F&B, medical, or retail sectors, we recommend exploring logistics and delivery services that allow you to serve customers even if they are unable to come to your store.
If you are an F&B, daily-essentials, or medical business, establish your presence on delivery apps Zomato, Swiggy, and PharmEasy. You can also consider offering your FMCG goods on delivery apps like Dunzo that now offer customers the ability to order their basic groceries online.
If you’re a retailer, you can use a combination of digital marketing and online order and delivery to reach your customers even when they cannot come to you. Going the extra mile for your customers will also help you develop a loyal customer base.
Tip #7 – Remain connected to your community of traders to stay in the loop
One great way to stay in the know regarding the latest developments in government advisories and travel restrictions is staying in contact with your local trader’s association. If you have a physical shop in a market and the market has a shop owners association, it can act as a great touchpoint for you.
Being an entrepreneur is tough enough as it is, and the other business owners are also in the same boat as you. So, remember to be there for one another and provide moral support and strength if things become more uncertain.
Tip #8 – Stay updated on the evolving situation in your state
The COVID-19 situation is an ongoing and evolving topic. As we record a sharp rise in cases once again, Central and State authorities have started doing daily updates of their protocols and advisories once again. So, the best way to stay up to date on what’s happening is to check official channels like Ministry websites and the news.
While Twitter is a great way to get short news bulletins, it is easy to get lost within the sheer volume of tweets posted about a topic at any given time. So, avoid such platforms for the time being and stick to watching the news or reading it on official websites or news apps.
Tip #9 – Help eligible individuals register for Precautionary Dose
If you, or someone you know, is eligible to get the 3rd dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, known as the Precautionary Dose in India, then don’t forget to register for it and help other eligible persons register as well. As per government guidelines, this Precautionary Dose is only available to frontline staff and senior citizens with comorbidities for the time being.
Tip #10 – Get your business funding in place now
Getting a business loan as an SME is tricky enough as it is. Depending on the type of loan and amount you want, you need to submit numerous supporting documents and reports along with your loan application to get your loan request approved.
As COVID-related uncertainty increases, lenders may become more risk-averse, and more government offices may switch to the Work from Home model. If you know you will need additional business financing in the next few months, we recommend starting your application now and getting your paperwork in order ASAP. If one or more of your business documents or licenses are expired, you will need to renew them, and this process could take longer than usual with the government officials working from home.
Once you have all your documents ready, use CreditEnable’s technology platform to apply for a 100% digital loan that does not require you to visit the lender even once. You can apply for business finance from the comfort of your home, no matter the time. We’ve helped eligible SMEs get unsecured business loans in just 2-3 days, at interest rates starting at 14%. During a complete lockdown last year, we were even able to get some customers their loans within 4 hours!
While most of our top tips aren’t any new advice, as states across India record daily spikes in cases, we thought it our duty to remind you of some COVID-19 protocol so you can avoid (or minimize) disruptions in your work.
SMEs are the backbone of the Indian economy, and businesses like yours kept our economy and households running even when life was at a standstill. With your support and increased vigilance, we can overcome this latest COVID-19 variant and continue towards economic recovery in no time!
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