The year 2020 was something no one was prepared for. The Covid-19 virus struck people across the globe with a heavy jolt. Small businesses around the world had to bear one of the substantial impacts.
Airlines, hotels, theatres, malls, and all similar businesses had to shut down temporarily due to the global pandemic. People stopped coming out of their homes and eventually, sales of small businesses dropped significantly.
According to a World Bank report, about 90 percent of businesses operating around the globe are small businesses and they also account for 50 percent of global employment.
Therefore, when the Covid-19 attacked the world out of the blue, many businesses lost huge projects amidst the lockdown. This led them to lose a considerable amount of revenue as well. Many SMEs were unable to pay employees' salaries and had to let go of a huge portion of their workforce. As a result, there was a huge increase in unemployment all around the world.
Over the months, it has been a primary objective to make the SMEs survive this pandemic. Small businesses are a crucial part of a nation's economy and the majority livelihoods depend on such businesses.
In the early days of lockdown, first world countries such as the USA started holding fund-raising campaigns to support local businesses. This was an initial step that showed the significance of the issue to the world. Several developed countries followed through as well.
However, campaigns were not enough to support all the small businesses. We had to come up with better innovative ideas to provide the help that was needed. Participating in community efforts and social work were some common courtesy to show in those moments of crisis.
Even though nine months have passed by, the impact of the Covid-19 is still here, and we cannot stop supporting small businesses quite yet.
Recently, the former American President, Barack Obama, was seen buying a book from a local store in late November. In a Facebook post, he said, "Although everyone's traditions might look different this year, we can still find ways to support these terrific small businesses."
This shows the importance given to supporting small businesses even now and we all should keep on doing so till these businesses can stand up on their own like before.
Fortunately, supporting small businesses was not only confined to developed countries. Developing countries, such as ours, soon picked up the pace to help small businesses.
More than 80 percent of businesses operating in Bangladesh are SMEs. And the survival of such businesses is vital for the future growth of the country's economy. Though small businesses can avail loans as per Bangladesh Bank's instructions, many are failing to get that support.
Moreover, loans are not enough for small businesses to get through this pandemic. Other businesses can serve as supporting hands as well. Some have even begun lending hands.
One such example would be Sheba.xyz. The company, in partnership with The Daily Star and The Daily Samakal, started a platform to raise funds to support the small businesses. This initiative - "Mission Save Bangladesh" - was taken to fight against the economic crisis the country is facing due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
"Pashe Achi" initiative is another example of providing such support. It started amidst the ongoing pandemic to provide help to the unfortunates which, later on, turned into a massive online book-selling platform.
The founders, Tahmid Hasan and Rafiul M Chowdhury discovered that the biggest bookselling hub in the city - Nilkhet, is struggling to sell enough books due to the virus outbreak. As a result, the Pashe Achi initiative started "Project Gronthomongol", where they bought books from the sellers and sold them online.
Apart from this, Pashe Achi also helped other small businesses - from milkmen to small vendors - all over the country. Apart from that, they also provided necessary help to those in need since the early days of the pandemic.
Another non-profit organization, Chinnomulder Pashe Amra, raised funds and provided necessary support to kindergartens and small schools inside Dhaka to help them sustain. These schools had been suffering financially to get through this crisis.
A local start-up - ShopUp, could be seen offering similar services as well. This e-commerce site has been helping a lot of small business owners who used to sell through informal business channels such as Facebook.
ShopUp has been a huge help to the small business owners who were initially struggling to sell products amid this crisis. Using ShopUp's platform, any small business could and still can easily shift online.
They also have an e-loan which has helped many young entrepreneurs to push-start their business, especially in this time of quandary.
The novel coronavirus is something that will not be easy to get rid of. Though people in many countries, including ours, have begun all the official vaccination operations, we must take into account the risks that come with it.
Therefore, supporting small businesses throughout this tough time has become our responsibility towards society. Small gestures can make way for the greater good of the country.
Moreover, this would also motivate a lot of potential entrepreneurial mindsets to take risks and start something of their own. As the old theory goes, "If everyone looks for a job, then who will create jobs?"
Small businesses are the flesh and blood of all businesses. They contribute to the economy, employment, and fulfill the needs of thousands of customers all over the world.
The recession we all are in now is something that will be difficult to resolve. Hence, supporting local businesses is the fastest way to economic recovery and to get out of this major catastrophe.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of The Business Standard.