We aren’t strangers to the truth that in a developing country like India, gender bias permeates the workplace even in the 21st century. According to one report, the representation of women in business is a mere 14 percent, and 79 percent of those are self-financed, and relatively small in size and scale. Yes, COVID-19 shook the entire economic world, but its direct and indirect consequences on women are far more hard-hitting.
Most women run businesses as micro-enterprises, a segment that is hardest hit by the pandemic. Studies suggest that women-led businesses are twice as likely to face failure post-pandemic.
Other operational challenges come into play like the unavailability of workforce or the need for being more flexible around work hours and location. Though this might not seem like an issue restricted to women alone, it’s important to note that women are often constricted to tighter budgets, space, time, and the peer network it requires to overcome these challenges.
But though the pandemic is not nearly under control even as 2021 approaches, there seems to be a glimmer of hope and a deeper commitment to navigate the uncertainties that are bound to occur in the new year. In essence, thrive not survive.
Rethink & Re-invent
The lessons learned in the past couple months point towards the fact that people adapt quickly to circumstance. Fortunately, women have been quick to meet the demand. In one survey by Bain &
Co., Google, and AWE Foundation, 54 percent women admitted to making shifts ranging from products, services to entire business models. An additional 24 percent women said they planned to change by December. Around 46 percent entrepreneurs took to retraining and upskilling programs. With technology now at our fingertips, it’s easier to make changes. The benefit of doing so early on will mean that future, potentially catastrophic events can be avoided. In short, don’t err on the side of caution.
Benjamin Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” In the light of COVID-19, one would agree that it helps to be better prepared. Women can do so by learning to adopt three key rules, a) assess risks b) establish survival strategies c) react quickly. Staying prepared is fundamental to the resilience of a business.
Access to Quick Wins
Organisations have now come to understand that not all goals they set are priorities. Learning which ones will give a quick competitive advantage will make all the difference to long-term survival and business potential.
COVID-19 has shaken the entire industry at large, and it’s another reminder of the importance of contingency funds that could lessen our financial stress. Access to liquid funds limit business pressure and I strongly encourage women entrepreneurs to create a financial forecast for a minimum of 12 months. Imagine if revenues suddenly dropped by half, what resources would you be betting on?
Flexibility is Key
President John F. Kennedy once said, “The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word ‘crisis’. One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger –but recognize the opportunity.” The fact is, COVID-19 has affected businesses differently, and while few sectors like hospitality and event management were met with rough outcomes, others like e-commerce and FMCG benefited greatly. Ask yourself, if your business only existed in one (or few) markets all this while, would it make sense to expand that universe?
With the pandemic leaving a permanent mark to the future of doing business, your ability to be nimble, adaptable to change and open to possibilities will be key to realising your goals even if the waters seem temporarily murky.
Natasha is an award-winning marketer and founder of The Words Edge. The views expressed are the author’s own.
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