A new term — “Shecession” — is doing the rounds after a rash of reports have uncovered how badly the Covid pandemic has hit women-owned businesses.

Seventy per cent of businesses run by women in India have reported a fall in revenue and one in five claimed its revenues had been completely wiped out, according to a joint report by Bain & Co, Google, and AWE Foundation on small businesses owned by women. The report found that 54 per cent were shifting their business models to stay relevant.

There has also been a big drop in venture capital funding for women-led start-ups. Figures from Crunchbase, a business information platform, show that globally women-led businesses got just 2.3 per cent of all funding in 2020 compared to 2.8 per cent in 2019.

Help at hand

However, there is some good news. Several interventions are on to help women-led businesses regain their mojo. Community platforms are springing up to help start-ups run by women get discovered or succeed. For their part, several women entrepreneurs are smartly pivoting to social commerce, using platforms like Instagram to be discoverable — and it is paying off.

Sheroes, a women-only social network, recently launched Shop on Sheroes, a social commerce platform. Says Abhishek Agarwal, Head, Revenue & Growth, Sheroes, “The biggest challenge in being a small business owner is to scale the business from one’s circle of influence. That’s where we come in.” Agrawal claims that over a thousand entrepreneurs have joined the Shop on Sheroes initiative within 6-7 weeks of its launch.

Another intervention at a global level is Fund Femme, a new database of women and non-binary owned businesses, that has been launched by marketing communications agency Wunderman. The global platform allows consumers to discover, and shop from, women and non-binary business owners across beauty, fashion, food, homeware, technology, health and wellness, travel, fitness, arts and culture, media and charities. According to Oriel Irvine-wells, Co-founder of Fund Femme and copywriter at Wunderman Thompson UK, “We want to give female and non-binary entrepreneurs the chance to tell their stories, so we’re developing an editorial platform that will hero different under-represented groups bi-monthly.”

Upskilling sessions

The longer-term plan is to organise mentoring sessions and help upskill entrepreneurs in areas of technology and finance. Meanwhile, many women-run businesses are reporting that Instagram has become a huge discovery platform for them.

Take Tanushree Bhasin, wedding photographer, who had been in business since 2013. When the pandemic hit, her start-up came crashing down as big fat Indian weddings came to an abrupt halt. “Earlier on, the website would drive traffic, but now most of my business comes through Instagram,” she says.

Role of discovery

Archana Vohra, Director, Small and Medium Businesses, Facebook India, says across the social media’s apps, it is noticing small businesses moving online in an unprecedented manner. “The role of discovery in shopping journeys is fuelling e-commerce in India. Across categories, people are discovering more products online,” she says.

“Our joint report with the World Bank and OECD on small businesses revealed that by the end of 2020, almost a third of small businesses on Facebook had increased their digital sales compared to before Covid-19 pandemic,” she says.

Ravina Rawal, owner of the media company DeadAnt that serves as a discovery platform for all things comedy in India, says, “It has become easier to get access to a larger audience with social media tools. Each community has its own specific generational audience, and content needs to be tackled differently for each platform – there is no one-size-fits-all formula.”