Challenges for SMEs – COVID protocols were quite daunting for businesses – Chand

KPMG partner Renu Chand (right) during the Women Invigorating the Nation convention held on Saturday at the GPH in Suva. Picture: ABISHEK CHAND

Many small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) chose not to open during the pandemic as the cost of compliance of doing business was costly for them.

According to the KPMG partner Renu Chand, the COVID-19 protocols, the compliance and the non-compliance as well as the penalty provisions of the $10,000 monetary fines or imprisonment were quite daunting.

“A lot of small businesses, particularly in the West, chose not to reopen and waited for borders to fully open with the relaxing by Government and then they were able to reopen the business,” she said.

“By providing transport to staff, you would have to go and buy a vehicle to be able to pick up all the staff.

“It was all of those things that were quite difficult, but now the outlook is moving forward.”

While presenting at the Women Invigorating the Nation convention, Ms Chand talked about business resilience and covered the SMEs space, which was the livelihood of many women in Fiji.

“In terms of the SME space there is the highest network of SMEs in Fiji, which is the Fiji SMEs Network, an organisation founded by Kim Beddoes.

“And from that, she’s got 534 members of which 53 per cent are women and it’s a good representation of SME space in Fiji because you’ve got women from the North as well as outside Suva.”

She said the key issues these businesses were facing were cash flow, e-commerce as well as compliance.

“How do you do a cash flow and now how do you regularly monitor your working capital and cash flows under different scenarios.

“The second one was e-commerce. “So everyone’s been forced into leaps and bounds on technology and how we enable technology in the workspace?

“How can you do online shopping? How can I buy things online? Just trying to understand that and the third one was around on compliance.”

Ms Chand said the compliance issue was about the cost of doing business.

“If you’re outside Suva, the cost of doing business is far greater. I use Nadi as an example because that’s where I’m based.

“For the SMEs, the biggest challenge they had was just the cost of doing business generally.” She said for SMEs, it was difficult and challenging for them to grow their business. Another issue faced by businesses in the Western Division was connectivity.

Ms Chand said businesses in the West had been affected by power outages and flooding. “You can’t have access to your connectivity so you can’t even do online business.

“You got your FRCS compliance, which is online, so that is a current challenge at the moment just having that connectivity.

“And then if you step outside to Vanua Levu and to the maritime islands like Kadavu, you’ve got very limited connectivity.

“So I think those challenges are going to be there, but it’s just how we can embrace it and work smarter around them.”

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