Today, the World is facing the worst ever pandemic situation due to COVID 19 outbreak. A catastrophe that has significantly impacted the economic slowdown of almost all businesses, globally. Everyone is shut inside their houses and worried about the consequential losses and future impact of such an indefinite lockdown on their businesses.
The best we can do is stay safe indoors and plan for the future by making beneficial use of audio-visual media, to mitigate and conquer the complications that may arise once we are back in business. The extended lockdown is a first step, which provides us ample time to prepare for managing the aftereffect of this lockdown.
Many Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), already struggling over the last few years, may not have the resources to survive. Credit perception has deteriorated sharply and COVID will further degrade this situation. Significant panic level has been created throughout the World and reviving the economy might take substantial time. We need to think of innovative ideas in which viable SMEs can be supported. Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) can make the terms of its credit guarantee of bank loans to SMEs even more favorable. The government could accept responsibility for the initial loss in incremental bank loans made to an SME, up to the quantum of income taxes to be paid by the SME.
It is high time to prepare an action plan for what happens after this lockdown scenario is open, so we can revive our businesses – mind you, with adequate precautions. Restarting will require measures to protect workers returning to work such as temperature checks of employees, adequate distancing at work and measures to identify and quarantine new infections. As per estimates, only 50% employees will initially be available once the lockdown is open and not many employers will be able to ensure adequate worker safety, except the corporate giants.
Can the administration think differently in different times?
The Government should, together with financial institutions, declare domestic financing, new support schemes and policies including voluntary moratoria on debt payments, slash interest rates and provide direct benefit transfers (DBTs) to needy workers through the next few months. This step will further prevent the movement of migrant labor, and people defying the lockdown will get back to work once the lockdown is relaxed. Our limited fiscal resources are certainly a worry, but spending on the needy at this difficult time is a high priority. Unlike the US, Europe and Japan which can allocate and spend 10 to 20% of GDP to boost manufacturing and economy, we have been forced into this crisis, with a huge fiscal deficit already on our heads, and will end up with spending yet more. The RBI must apply suitable haircuts to minimize its credit risk for a much-needed support to corporate borrowing. The RBI should consider a moratorium on financial institution dividend payments so that they build capital reserves. The Government should also require each of its PSU’s at Centre and state level, to pay their bills ASAP, so that private firms get valuable liquidity.
Can there be a helping hand?
O yes! Some out of the box thinking can show us ways to make a small but valuable difference in the present crunch.
SMEs need to prioritize and delay less important expenditures, while focusing on immediate needs. Large firms and corporates can also support to channel funds to their small vendors and suppliers. Stipend should be paid to the daily wagers (direct to bank account) which is being implemented in few parts of the country. Electricity and water should be provided free of cost for the poor during next few months.
Attracting labor will be a big challenge for construction, manufacturing, food, transportation & other labor oriented industries. Private sector should be involved to revive growth and opportunities.
Religious institutions should get involved for providing meals on daily basis for few months – ISKCON is providing meals to more than 2 lac people per day, as is RSS in their own way and through networking.
Others such institutions could take inspiration to join.
So how to keep the doors open?
Running a successful business is always a state-of-the-art game. You have to be one step ahead in anticipation and think of strategies that you might never even use. But think of them, none-the-less!
- Keep an eye upon Government policies related to opportunities for easing businesses.
- Keep your contingency-action plan ready.
- Keep your employees motivated by keeping them engaged for 3-4 hours per day for office work or for upgrading their knowledge through online training and courses.
- Review your lease and hire agreements, maybe you have an opportunity to file an insurance claim considering this is a force majeure event,
- Also look for deferred rental payments.
- You also got to keep knocking doors for opportunities…
- Talk to your existing Clients and maintain a professional relationship with a personal touch
- Look for new Clients via online options
- To keep our businesses alive during this lockdown period, promote your business using online Advertising, Social Media marketing, Email marketing, Blog writing etc.
- Look for alternates viz. educational institutions and others have started using digital media and are promoting group video calls and working together.
Businesses run due to the Employees, Clients and Suppliers, if you lose the contacts with any of the above persons, your business might not be able to succeed during this unfortunate situation hence stay in regular touch with your Employees, Workers, Suppliers and Clients.
- The inflow of fund is affected during lockdown but the fixed expenses almost remain the same.
- Create a list of your debtors and contact them to release your payments,
- make a list of your priority creditors and be ready with their payments.
- Do not neglect your vendors, be prepared to receive and attend their calls.
- Talk to your bankers and discuss on ways to ease out financial burden.
- Prepare a plan to manage the cash flow immediately after the lockdown.
- Shortlist urgent payments.
- Check list for stock of available inventories and its requirements after lockdown & prepare an action plan.
- Detailed budgeting should be done for the next financial year, yes well in advance.
But most of all, be positive, stay healthy and spread positivity among your family, friends, employees and clients etc. Regular yoga, exercise and meditation release hormones that make you feel constructive and confident to overcome these difficult challenging times. Read motivational books, upgrade your skill levels, make most of the online courses to benefit your personal and professional life.
There should be no reason to despair. With the right resolve and priorities, and drawing on the many sources of strength that our country possesses, it can beat this virus back, and even set the stage for a much more hopeful tomorrow.
Anuj Singh is a qualified civil engineer with 24 years’ experience on risk management, commercial / contract management and project management experience employed with a large multinational Australian construction organization. He is a fellow member of the “Institution of Engineers”, India (FIE) and member of “Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors”, United Kingdom (RICS)
An adept multi-tasker, able to lead and motivate with an enthusiastic approach. He worked for several 1st tier contractors, developers and consultants in various parts of the world.
His diverse professional background makes him the ideal person to share his experiences and thoughts on various topics such as values, motivation, leadership and success etc. Based in Gurgaon, India, at present, he is an active analyst of the trends in the Construction industry on the global scenario.