Wadhwani Foundation appears to have shifted its focus from accelerating the growth of SMEs to survival and stability (of SMEs).
Ajay Kela, President and CEO of the foundation, said that the sector has been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic with small businesses facing the brunt of the economic shock. “In this moment of crisis when most SMEs have little or no cash left, it is crucial to focus on survival and stability of the enterprise. How can the enterprise grow if it does not survive?” he asked.
He added, “Growth will remain a priority, but not an immediate one. Our entire focus for now will be to handhold the SMEs back to recovery, focus on mentoring and consultation services.”
Founded almost two decades ago, the foundation has been driving hard launching high impact initiatives primarily for generation of employment and skill development through various projects.
Kela said that the foundation’s SME vertical, Wadhwani Advantage, initiated a programme during the last quarter of 2018. “Last year, we piloted with 200 SMEs and most of them grew 10 to 15 per cent. We have been supporting more than 600 SMEs globally providing personalised, on-demand knowledge and consulting resources through an AI-enabled mobile platform to create millions of new jobs. We have plans to scale the global SME support to 6,000 by mid-2021; one-third of these would be Indian companies.”
He said, “Access to funds, particularly working capital, has been a big issue for SMEs; growth-related issues include difficulty in new customer acquisition, followed by people related aspects such as talent acquisition, growing a second line to take more responsibilities, retention and in current times - motivation and morale.”
“SMEs will need to re-invent and re-strategise to sustain and survive. To ensure liquidity and slow-down of the burn rate, SMEs should plan for an 18-month runway and prioritise survival over growth,” Kela said, urging SMEs to eye new business opportunities and diversify into growth verticals like healthcare or related fields, apart from making use of digital media effectively.