Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos had warned investors earlier this year of a likely loss the company would witness. As the e-commerce giant planned to spend $4 billion on Covid19-related expenses, a potential loss of $1.5 billion was projected this quarter. However, the results were startling! Despite the pandemic, Amazon doubled its net profit year over year to $5.2 billion. A similar story was observed with Reliance. The company reported that for the quarter ended on 30 June, its net profit spiked a whopping 31 per cent to Rs. 13,233 crore as opposed to Rs. 10,104 crore for the same period last year.
While the pandemic favoured these brand names, a substandard treatment was met out to the local businesses. These neighbourhood ventures were forced to close shop, as business suffered. These include the startups that sent you an unending list of mails probing you to check out their buys, the grocer at the corner of the street who’s been facing a slump, and the entrepreneurs who faced the brunt of the pandemic. You may have lost sight of these in recent times, amid the hue and cry of well-established brands. But economy analysts emphasize the need to support local businesses now more than ever.
Local businesses crashed with the advent of the pandemic
A study conducted on 5,800 small businesses to understand the impact of the Covid19 pandemic on the operations, suggested that the pandemic has caused massive dislocation amongst the local businesses. While 43% of the businesses considered in the study, had temporarily closed due to the pandemic, they cited the reduction in demand as a major reason to shut shop. Employee health concerns were another cause for closure, which gave rise to disruptions in the supply chain. While the world was advised to stay indoors to break the chain of transmission, businesses which functioned with a handful of employees were put in a dilemma. The choice was to continue running the shop with a tuppence of income or safeguard the health of employees.
The economic changes that the Nation underwent in the first quarter of 2020, were unlike anything we’ve ever seen. As the pandemic struck, within a fortnight, the Nation reacted to the threat posed by the virus, and the economy transformed, thus affecting millions and their income. Businesses closed their doors worldwide, and according to a recent study by Yelp, closure rates increased by 200% or more in metros and states around the country. Consumer interest in local businesses plummeted by 50% and the overall impact on local economies was massive. Social distancing was advocated as the need of the hour and many businesses chose to close down, some even permanently.
Supporting local businesses: a win-win situation
Encouraging local start-ups is beneficial not just to the entrepreneurs but to you as well. A two-way street is what it is. While supermarkets and malls would seem the best bet to get everything on the shopping list, you’d spend half a day in the queue waiting for your turn. Instead, it would do you good to check out the convenience stores in the neighbourhood. The usual crowds are not found at these stores, and it would make your shopping experience worth it. Some cities across different countries have begun encouraging these local ventures, who even home deliver your buys to you on request. These local ventures include ‘Snackible’, ‘Pack-A-Pav’, ‘YoDeli’ and more like these. While there are websites you could look-up to get in touch with these neighbourhood businesses, some operate on the basis just a phone number. Arrange the delivery details and voila! It will likely take you a few hours or a couple of days to get what you asked for.
The benefits of providing support to local ventures
A milliard of benefits are in the pipeline should you consider shopping local. These range from enabling these small businesses to flourish in these uncertain times, to fostering the situation for entrepreneurs in the near future.
Strengthening the local economy
By supporting local businesses, you are contributing to someone’s paycheck. These entrepreneurs and local set-ups could do with your help. Moreover, this gets the wheels of the economy chugging again, after a long hiatus.
Local businesses usually carry a greater portion of locally-produced goods coming from smaller-scale producers and farms. The products are therefore more eco-friendly and require less outsourcing. This then further contributes to a sustainable practises, as transportation of fresh produce involves lesser CO2 being spent on fuel.
Creating more jobs
When you partake in these local ventures, there are more job opportunities that are created for budding entrepreneurs. Thus, those facing competition at a larger chain store could get their own niche for a business.
Lowers your taxes
Everyone loves lower taxes, and lending your support to local businesses can help do just that. With small businesses, more efficient land use and more central locations put less demand on roads, sewers and safety services. Even more, independent businesses often generate more tax revenue per sales dollar. This means a greater percentage of local businesses helps to keep your taxes lower, as compared to mega-stores.
Improves your family’s health
Buying local foods has numerous health benefits, opening you up to the world of chemical-free fruits and vegetables, grass-fed meats, fresh eggs and dairy. While your loved ones enjoy a tasty meal, you can be assured that your efforts to go local are not in vain.
Ways to support local businesses
If you’re looking to do your part in helping local ventures flourish, here’s a few things you could do.
Report a place as re-opened
Oftentimes, local businesses do not have the time or the resources to update the information in their online listing. But you could do your bit! Know a business that’s recently opened to the public? Report it as open to the public on Google Maps. If there’s a business that’s been temporarily closed for a while, but is now open, you could simply click on the ‘Temporarily Closed’ banner on the business and select ‘Suggest an edit’ to let Google know that the business has reopened.
Spread the word with reviews, ratings and photos
One sure tactic that works well in the marketing world is reviews. Share your experience about a local business, whether its a restaurant that is proving take-out or a grocer who keeps the freshest produce! Share pictures and some well-worded praise. It would go a long way in helping the business grow.
Avail of digital services
While you may not be wanting to venture out of home for the fear of the virus, you could always opt for some digital consultations. Many businesses are pivoting to online services due to COVID-19 restrictions, and you can now see local businesses offering online classes, appointments and estimates, right on Google Search and Maps. Search using terms like ‘salons near me’ or ‘retail store near me’. This will give you a bunch of options to browse through!
Make a reservation for a future appointment
While missing reservations or appointments are understandable, it might be stressful to a local business, which has blocked its slot for you. If you absolutely need to cancel, go ahead and reschedule! It would be great to remember that these local ventures depend on you, and they are counting on your appointment! Plenty of salons and other businesses take appointments and reservations directly from Search or Maps.
Order delivery or takeout
Tired of cooking at home? Take-out to the rescue! Many restaurants and bars that are closed for dine-in service have pivoted to takeout and delivery. You may not just be doing your local business a favour, but also giving your taste buds a break from the home food! Use Google Maps to find restaurants around you that are offering takeout, curbside pickup, delivery, or no-contact delivery.
Prime Minister Modi himself announced a 'Vocal to Local' campaign, following which India geared up to utilise indigenous products, instead of imported ones. The campaign aimed to reduce the dependency on imported products, and extend support to emerging businesses.
Prime Minister’s ‘Vocal For Local’ campaign
“In times of crisis, this local has fulfilled our demand, this local has saved us. Local is not just the need, it is our responsibility also” The PM had said while addressing the nation on 12th May 2020.
With the view of giving impetus to the vision of an ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’, Modi encouraged Indians to make headway for these local ventures in order to stimulate the businesses of the future.
Encouraging these local ventures will pave the way for a stable economy. The Covid19 pandemic may have caused the way ahead to get blur, and in time like these, it is of utmost importance to give those start-ups around you a reason to continue.