How do we adjust to this pandemic as an SME

It’s a whole lot harder for smaller businesses to adapt to the challenges brought about by the pandemic as they don’t have reserve funds to pull them through this period of time. Picture: SUPPLIED/DEVPOLICY

“Lockdowns” and “restricted movement” are now current issues that we have to deal with as business owners. You’ll be somewhat lucky if you fall into the “essential services” business category that will allow you to operate in such a time as this.

Even if you’re allowed to open, I know it doesn’t come without its challenges.

Currently we have everyone else outside of the “essential services” category not in operation. What do we do?

Do we wait this out and stay at home and fully comply with the Ministry of Health regulations until we get back to a covid-contained state?

Do we try to fit ourselves somewhat within the “essential services” category and try to operate?

How do we adapt and to what extent should we?

How do we make up for the lost time and loss of income during this phase?

These are of course, trying questions that every business owner in Fiji currently has going through their minds.

It’s a whole lot harder for smaller businesses to adapt as they don’t have reserve funds to pull them through this period of time.

For bigger businesses, undoubtedly it will also be challenging as they’d have to downsize given the nature of the business as they also are adapting to the change in times.

For my business, one year into COVID-19 hitting our shores and I feel we’re ‘somewhat’ better prepared to get through this phase. How more prepared can you get, right?

The Merch is a second-hand homeware retail store based out of Walu Bay in Suva – when COVID-19 hit though last year, we were still based out of our Lees Bakery warehouse located in Centrepoint, Nasinu.

I, like any other business was really worried when all the uncertainty hit and our economy took a downturn with COVID-19.

I had a whole week to rethink my approach during the lockdown last year and how I would restrategise my existence in the game.

Here’s how we’ve adapted since:

1) We partnered with Fiji Chemicals Pte Ltd to retail their products out of our warehouse space in Walu Bay. Fiji Chemicals has been in the business of the supply of sanitary products for more than 20 years and is based out of Lautoka whose biggest customer was the tourism industry pre COVID-19. It took COVID-19 for us to enter into a mutually beneficial relationship as we both had to diversify.

2) As a member business of the Fiji Commerce Employers Federation (FCEF), we utilised their services under the Business Link Pacific (BLP) program and had a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) drawn up; much of which has been implemented as explained through the pointers now.

3) We partnered with Vodafone Fiji Ltd to install the M-PAiSA cashless payment platform in our store. Through this initiative we also partnered with Market Development Facility (MDF) with a 10 per cent discount promotion that encouraged the use of the M-PAiSA with our customer base.

4) We launched our Online Store with CDP’s Shop Online Fiji platform so our customers can now access our goods online at this link https://shoponlinefiji.com/store/the-merch/.

Shop Online Fiji then outsources to CDP who takes charge of our deliveries to our customers, Fiji wide.

I am by no means any expert in business, but for me, one thing is certain – collaboration is the key to streaming forward and through this pandemic.

We cannot survive this alone, we must be open to not only restrategising internally but to also opening ourselves up to receive and give mutual assistance.

We are still evolving our business and we must adapt ourselves to this wave, that is change.

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