Will economic recession hit small businesses in India? A small business survival guide

31 min read
Toshani B

Mahi Kapoor, a 37-year-old owner of a small designer boutique in Uttarakhand in North India, is once again making adjustments to her business for business survival. After surviving the last two years, Mahi is now thinking about how her boutique – selling designer garments and artifacts to clients in India and Europe – can weather a possible economic recession.

Mahi is not alone in her fears about an economic downturn.  

Raj and Sunitha Rajan, an entrepreneur couple, who run a hand-made chocolate shop and a corporate gifting business in Kodaikanal in Tamil Nadu, are also worried about the fate of their business. They are offering cheaper options to their corporate and retail customers, in India and abroad.    

The global economy is facing turbulent times, with the three global powerhouses — the U.S, Europe and China — all facing formidable headwinds. In India too, rising inflation, widening trade deficit and a declining rupee makes the situation worrisome for the hundreds and thousands of small businesses.  

However, it is important to understand what a recession is and if India is likely to have one.

Also, it is worth exploring how your small business can turn the tide by looking at new opportunities and adopting strategies that ensure their long-term sustainability. 

What is a recession? 

In simple terms, recession is used to signify a slowdown in general economic activity.  

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) defines recession “as a period of prolonged decline in output experienced across much of the economy.” Some experts consider a recession to be in progress when GDP has declined for at least two consecutive quarters.

The RBI calls an economic decline an actual recession between 12-18 months after the recession’s beginning. 

Looking for light amidst darkness

A survey of 400 firms conducted (pdf) in mid-2020 found that India’s microenterprises lost 20% of annual sales, while medium and large enterprises lost about 11%.

The study estimated that microenterprises could retain only 37% of their workers, while the number for large enterprises was 57%. These and other statistics suggest the ill-fated plight of small business owners during the crisis.

Aarushi founder of Lavish
Lavish owner Aarushi has kept 60+ artisans working during the pandemic.

Aarushi, founder and director of Lavish, a handmade apparel and accessories brand, witnessed how her business almost came to a halt during the pandemic.

“While online selling through platforms like Amazon and LimeRoad.com was always part of the company’s strategy (and Lavish also has a well-built website), the pandemic days were tough. Our ongoing orders were on hold for an indefinite period,” she says.

Aarushi was worried about her local artisans, as payments did not happen in time and the delay was almost for six to eight months.

But the economics graduate, who is always too determined towards her goal, didn’t give up.

What happens in an economic recession?  

The first and most important sign of a recession is a steady rise in unemployment or job loss.

During a recession, people may experience significant impacts on their daily lives.

  • Everything — from groceries to shoes — is often more expensive
  • Workers may have less job security

Here are certain areas that are impacted the most when a recession hits. 

Fresh vegetables arranged in piles
During an economic recession, everything costs more.

Personal income stagnates or declines 

Economic recession is a period of lull. Most people experience either a drop in their income level or stagnation or, worse, job loss.

At the same time, prices of commodities rise steeply, leaving everyone in distress. Income inequality widens as the lower and the middle-income groups suffer the most. 

Unemployment rate goes up 

In a recession, the unemployment rate — the percentage of the total labor force that is unemployed but actively seeking work — tends to increase as companies cut back on staff to reduce their expenses.

The Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) reported that unemployment reached a high of 15.53% in April 2020, the peak of the recession during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Business and manufacturing activities decline 

During a recession, businesses cut back on production, as the cost of raw materials goes up. This leads to subsequent decline in manufacturing activity, leading to a dip in exports as well.

For instance, India faced a recession in the 1960s after the China War in 1962, followed by the Pakistan War in 1965. Again, India faced two terrible droughts in 1965 and 1966 respectively. As per several reports, GDP growth was negative 3.66% during that time.  

Big hit on consumer spending  

Retail sales, or the total amount of money people spend on goods and services, gets affected the most during a recession.

People have less money to spend and stick to only essential goods and services.

The dip in retail sales invariably impacts the economy on the whole. Many businesses lay off workers to reduce costs, and some may even shut shops.  

Related: 10 unconventional ways to make passive income

COVID-19 and its effects on India's economy

In March 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic prompted a nationwide mandate requiring all nonessential businesses to close, business survival became a key challenge for hundreds and thousands of small companies across India.

Many small business owners struggled with business survival challenges presented by COVID-19. While many were forced to shut shop, some stayed afloat thanks to their amazing determination, willingness to adapt and perhaps some bit of luck.

In fact, 82% of small businesses in India were impacted during the first wave of COVID-19. 

Despite COVID-19 slowly becoming an event of the past, many businesses are still reeling from the effect of stringent lock-downs and restrictions. 

Small businesses can be particularly vulnerable to such business disruptions and often don't have cash reserves to support their business survival during difficult times.

For businesses that survived and grew during the pandemic, one thing was certain. Their owners were always on their toes, using innovative strategies to make sales and drive new opportunities, which they believe can help them now and in the future. Most importantly, these businesses were all responsive to change.

"It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one more responsive to change." ~ Charles Darwin

Is Indian economy under a recession? 

When the global economy has slipped in a recession, India cannot remain immune.

Moody's Investor Service predicts India's real GDP growth will slow from 7.7% in 2022 to 5.2% in 2023.

Nonetheless, the economy has shown resilience. According to a July 2022 Bloomberg survey of economists, the probability of recession is zero for India. Inflation and a possible growth slowdown are primarily due to global shocks.

A more recent S&P Global Ratings has retained its 2022-23 growth projection for India’s economy at 7.3%, citing a smaller impact from the global slowdown on its domestically-driven economy. 

What are the effects of a recession on small business?  

During an economic recession, small businesses are often hit the hardest. Budget constraints, reduced spending power and inadequate preparedness can make it extremely difficult for a small business to survive.

Those without adequate support systems even stall their operations.

Related: Protect your future with a business continuity plan  

Reduced cash flow Man counting rupees outside a shop

Small businesses run on a tightly controlled budget with limited cash flow. Customers may delay purchases or payments for longer than usual because they are waiting for income to arrive themselves.

This causes a chain of delayed payments from one vendor to another, which typically slows down all aspects of business. 

Decline in sales 

When customers experience cash constraints, they are more likely to put that money towards essential items and save elsewhere. Lesser customer spending directly translates to a decline in revenue for businesses. 

Freezing on hiring and layoff 

Small business owners look for budget cuts in every area possible to survive an economic crisis, one key area being reducing staff. They may do so across departments or some specific areas.

Marketing is one activity that is often hit when a business experiences budgetary constraints.

However, with fewer employees left to do the remaining work, there may be chances of:

  • Lack of productivity
  • Fatigue among employees
  • Demoralization

What’s the difference between a recession and a depression? 

As mentioned, a recession is a widespread economic decline that lasts for several months. Depression is a more severe downturn that lasts for years. 

Recessions are characterized by:

  • High unemployment and decline in wages
  • Drop in the prices of real estate and stock market
  • Negative gross domestic product (GDP)Man sitting on the groud with open hands

The longest global recession that occurred since World War II was the Great Recession, lasting from December 2007 to June 2009. 

India has gone through four economic recessions in 1958, 1966, 1973 and 1980. The most recent would be the one that some believe may occur post the Covid-19 pandemic. 

During an economic depression, unemployment rates rise into the double-digits and stay there for years.

This leads to a complete collapse in demand for consumer goods.

As a result, companies reduce production or shut down manufacturing facilities, with fewer exports. 

A case study

The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression between 1929 and 1939 that began after a major fall in stock prices in the United States.

The country’s industrial production between 1929 and 1933 fell by nearly 47%, GDP declined by 30% and unemployment reached more than 20%. Also, 20% of banks in existence in 1930 had failed by 1933.

Its impact was also felt in India, as nearly 25% of the labor force was unemployed.

India’s real GDP fell nearly 6.4% in 1931 and around 12.9% in 1932. Import and export were nearly reduced to half during the depression.

How does an economic recession affect small businesses? Small ventures at greater risk

In a survey of more than 600 companies conducted by CARERatings, it was found that small businesses have more stress than larger ones.

“Business activity is unlikely to touch pre-COVID-19 levels before March 2021, and there is an urgent need for the government to step in and provide the much required ‘push’ to the economy.”

Below are some of the reasons why small and medium businesses are feeling more heat in this economic slowdown.

  • They have limited savings to fuel their working capital cycle and cover their fixed costs with limited business activity.
  • Dependence on migrant labourers. They’re still suffering as most of the migrant workers have still not returned
  • The lack of awareness and inability to get benefitted from the loan moratorium and other scheme announced by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI)
  • Lack of guidance on pivoting their business and adapting their business operations according to the changing times

These are some of the many other factors that are responsible for the everyday death of small businesses in India due to economic slowdown.

How do you survive an economic recession? 

While a recession-like situation is the worst nightmare for small businesses, many have shown remarkable flexibility as they find creative ways to survive a downturn. 

Here are a few tactics to survive an economic downturn:

1. Invest in your existing customers - customer retention is key

Did you know gaining a new customer can cost five times more than keeping a customer you now have? Your existing happy customers are the key to attaining a recession-proof business. 

Instead of trying to acquire new customers, you must focus on maintaining the existing ones. This is true even at the best of times.

During a recession, people clamp down on their spending, making it even harder to persuade a new customer to give you a try. It would be a good strategy to focus on current customers, making sure their needs are met.

Hence, investing in the customers you already have becomes even more important. For retaining customers, you have to go beyond price and discounts. Listen and understand the problems of your customers and try to empathize with them. Focus more on providing the best customer experience, even if it requires making an extra effort to make them happy. 

Talking to them on their requirements, pain points and priorities as well as getting those addressed can go a long way in boosting customer loyalty.

Apart from the cost of acquisition, the closing rates for existing customers (60-80%) are, on average, higher than the new customers (10-30%). It is better to spend your time trying to sell more to the customers you already have, than to try selling anything to people who don’t already know or trust you.

This might seem obvious, but past customers were once active customers. During an economic recession might be the perfect time to re-engage with past clients. Stay in touch with your customers, and they will not only purchase your goods but also provide you referrals to their family and friends. 

Editor's Note: Learn how to start your own loyalty program in this seven-step guide.

2. Focus in branding strategy - create your brand and brand community

People are not comfortable going out and interacting with others face to face. Everyone wants to maintain a social distance for their well-being as well as their family. 

Creating a brand and a community of raving fans around it is key to business survival when people are not visiting stores or shops. 

Every business is not a brand. The brand has a personality, mission, vision, and values. You can use social media to get your followers engaged in conversation around your products, ideas, new launches, and so on. An engaging brand community goes a long way in the success of any business. 

While recessions can be stressful for everyone, entrepreneurs should strive to bring their business online in a meaningful way.

For this, they can:

  • Send regular, content-rich emails to existing customers on their mailing list
  • Follow up with prospects, making them a compelling offer
  • Post consistently on social media in the form of recommendations, contests and other messages to push the company's brand identity and agenda

Bur experts advise to go slow and not push a hard sell during economic recession, as people face many financial issues during these difficult periods. 

Editor’s note: Make sure your business is easy to find. Put your business online in less than 10 minutes with Online Starter Bundle.

3. Automate parts of your business  

Automation or using IT solutions and machines to do repetitive tasks can save you an incredible amount of time and also money.

Many of the things that your workers do to drive business can be automated, meaning that you can use your people, time and money in other ways.

For example, you can streamline your marketing tasks, data entry activities, e-commerce order management, credit control tasks, and more, with the help of multiple custom software, applications and tools to reduce workload and increase productivity.  

Varun Kumar, Founder and CEO of Pashmina, highlights the use of automation tools as a key business survival strategy that enabled the company to maintain a strong connection with customers.

“The communication — being a core solution to all issues we faced — was managed by integrating our website with Zoho CRM tohave a single cumulating of all communication contacts with customers. We shifted from performance marketing to building a marketing strategy focused towards content.”

“We built more than 100 articles during that period to give a lot of content to read and engage the customers or people visiting our website with. Eventually those 100 articles became our organic customer acquisition point, as 40% of our traffic is driven through these content pages,” he adds.

Pashmina website

Varun also lauds the Indian government’s special initiatives towards e-commerce shipments. He mentions that once things stabilized a little, the custom clearance ensured that there were no delays.

Related: Contact management software — 5 good options

4. Focus on what you do best

Trying new things and being innovative is what businesses do to grow. However, in the given market condition when the economic slowdown is looming and financial stability is uncertain, it’s a better idea to bank on the products and services that you are very certain of.

Even if you sell a bouquet of services or products, every business has something they’re known for.

What’s your best-selling offer? Channel your energy and efforts to selling more of those best-selling products and services.

Glass display case full of food
Focus on selling more of your best-selling products or services.

You can promote your winning products through new channels or to a new audience.

You can also add variants of your offers (like a basic, popular, and VIP variant of the same product or service), or even introduce several payment plans to make it easier for customers to buy from you.

5. Apply for government-enabled financial assistance

During the first COVID-19 wave in 2020, the Government of India announced various financial assistance incentives to ailing businesses in the country. Some of those incentives are still available, and you should check with your bankers if your business is eligible to benefit from those initiatives.

To support small businesses during the second wave, the Reserve Bank of India announced Resolution Framework 2 on May 5, 2021. 

The framework is targeted to reduce stress in Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), many of whom are facing financial weakness due to lock-downs and closure of businesses.  It allows small businesses to restructure or postpone their loan obligations without any penalty or downgrade in their asset classification (a parameter to measure the credibility of a business). 

The Government of India has taken initiatives to rescue the small and medium-sized businesses by offering relaxations like collateral-free loans, subordinated debts, and equity infusion through its Funds of Funds (FoF) scheme, allowing banks for one-time restructuring of loans. It also issued several notifications to provide relaxation to businesses in fulfilling their statutory and regulatory compliances under GST law. The relaxation includes a waiver of late fees, extension of timelines for filing, and others. 

On May 30, 2021, the Government also allowed small businesses to borrow an additional 10% of their credit limit to tide over the crisis. 

Government is responsive to the pain points of the businesses and releases notifications for business survival support on a dynamic basis. You should consult your bankers and accountants to get the maximum benefit out of these Government schemes.

Other than these, here’s a list of schemes you can consider:

  • Pradhan Mantri MUDRA Yojana — apply here
  • Credit Guarantee Fund Scheme for Micro and Small Enterprises — apply here
  • National Small Industries Corporation Subsidy — apply here
  • Credit Linked Capital Subsidy Scheme for Technology Upgradation — apply offline through your bank
  • SIDBI Make In India Soft Loan Fund For Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMILE) — apply here

Private companies like Google are also offering loans to merchants in India.

6. Innovate and pivot your product line if you can

When the going gets tough, the tough get going. This is absolutely true for Indian businesses and entrepreneurs. 

There are many successful examples that show how Indian businesses have pivoted their product line not only to ensure their own business survival but also serve the nation in crisis. 

Leaders of Delhi-based Suparshva Swabs
Suparshva Swabs began producing much-needed polyester swabs in just 10 days.

Below are few quick tips that can spark some innovation in your mind — and who knows, you could make a fortune out of it:

  1. Businesses can modify and efficiently change their product lines to include essential products such as masks and hand sanitizers. These products are and will remain in good demand for the coming several months.
  2. Fine dining restaurants can start providing home delivery services. People are not comfortable stepping out, but you can reach them at home with your product. During lock-down, Barbeque Nation, a famous buffet grill restaurant, started delivering their buffets at home. 
  3. Businesses having capabilities in electronics can explore the production of sensor-enabled hand sanitizer dispensers or home cleaning appliances (since domestic help is not available for most households).
  4. Businesses earlier offering pest control services can venture into disinfection services which are in high demand these days.

These are just some of the examples to warm up your brain muscles. After all, you know what your business and your employees can do best.

7. Proper inventory and cash management

Cash is the lifeblood for any business, and businesses are required to generate enough cash to pay towards their expenses, obligations, and growth. Failing to manage cash flow is the main reason why small businesses shut down.

When cash inflow is limited, cost cutting is the only way you can manage your finances and have positive cash flows again.

To do that, simply revisit every cost you incur and ask these three questions to yourself-

  • Is it required?
  • Can it be eliminated?
  • Can it be minimised?

The only cost you don’t want to cut is marketing or promotions. Businesses that survive recessions watch all other costs like a hawk, but continue to spend on promoting their goods and services.

Therefore, it becomes more important for small businesses to manage their cash and inventory for business survival. Here are few tips for small businesses to improve their cash position:

  1. Try to reduce the inventory if possible without causing inconvenience to the customers. Less inventory means more cash at hand. 
  2. Focus on your core products and utilize your limited resources to push towards more production and sales of your flagship products.
  3. Delay major capital expenditure plans. Focus on the existing setup and try to utilize it to maximum efficiency.

You should have money in hand to take care of your fixed expenses like rent, utilities, employee salaries, and so on. Your business has a higher chance of survival if you have sufficient cash reserves to keep it afloat in these difficult times.

8. Bring your business online

Taking your business online will not only help your business survive an economic recession short-term, but thrive well into the future. 

The pandemic has forced everyone to stay indoors, and therefore people are spending more time on laptops, smartphones and desktops. 

Here how businesses can benefit by going online:

  1. If you can easily and economically ship your products to your customers, you should think about launching your eCommerce store. On your online store, your customers should be able to easily browse the products, place an order, and track the delivery. Here’s a guide to the best free WooCommerce extensions and plugins for new eCommerce sites.
  2. If you provide some teaching/coaching like a yoga instructor, a dance teacher, and so on, you can easily invite your students to a video conference and conduct your session. Here’s a detailed article to help you choose a suitable video conferencing tool. The most popular ones are Zoom, Google Meet and Microsoft Teams.
  3. If you don’t want to take the hassles of getting online customers, shipping products and providing customer support, you can become a seller on existing marketplaces like Amazon or Flipkart. Marketplaces charge their commission on sales but provide you peace of mind while doing your online business. 

Praveen Dilip S, Managing Director and Chief Technology Officer of RepuNEXT, a digital marketing agency, believes that his business got a boost during the pandemic, which came across as a blessing in disguise for them.

He says, “Though it’s uncomfortable to talk about success during the pandemic, our business was mildly affected.

RepuNext staff Christmas photo
Praveen with RepuNEXT staff.

"As a digital marketing agency, most of our work was done online. It required limited physical presence and hence employees started working from home.”

However, as everyone was struggling with lockdown blues, it was a struggle to get new business.

“A few weeks into the lockdown, we started coping with the situation. We made use of the internet through which we held virtual meetings, and spent more time sharing materials and contacting clients,” he says.

We focused more on digital marketing and closed several deals.

RepupNEXT logo

“It is essential to have a strong online presence in order to stay afloat. Other than unavoidable appointments, everything else could be conducted online,” says Praveen.

For business survival during the pandemic and in the current scenario, his recommendation for small businesses is to switch to digital tools and technologies that can play a big role in business survival.

Online chat

“We use an advanced online chat where we don't need to meet physically," he explains. "It helps us to do video calls, chats, file transfer and screen sharing all from a website without any installation. This kind of tool is simple even for a layman to access the meeting at any time without any hurdles.”

QR Codes

With social distancing has now become a norm, he also mentions that UPI and QR codes are the best ways to maintain a social distancing as we can expect another lockdown in any time.

Praveen also says that he made sure to advertise under a limited budget — even though returns would be low and that they need to invest cautiously. “Most importantly, by constantly communicating through the online medium we could survive fairly well in the new climate,” says Praveen.

Editor’s note: No business website? Now is the time to get one. Find a GoDaddy-certified web developer to build it here by scrolling down to “Companies looking for certified GoDaddy professionals?” Read this post for tips on getting a business website online quickly.

9. Track your suppliers

Most states in the country are under lock-down with varying levels of restriction on the movement of people. 

If your business requires raw material from different parts of the country, there are high chances that your business might be impacted by supply chain disruption. 94% of Fortune 1000 companies are seeing supply chain disruptions from COVID-19. 

Here’s what you can do to prevent your business from supply chain disruptions:

  1. Turn to local sources to supply the raw materials that your business needs to operate. It reduces the risk of disruption as the goods movement is shorter, and it also helps to preserve the environment by cutting down the emissions from transporting vehicles.
  2. Do not source all your raw material from a single supplier. There have been instances where the entire unit or plant has been shut off due to the high number of Covid cases detected in that area. Therefore, mitigate your supply disruption risk by sourcing from different suppliers.

10. Honesty is best

“We are all in this together,” Aarushi adds, “so the ideal way I thought was to stay transparent with my clients, partners and employees about what the business was going through.

Lavish website

“We explained the situation to our clients, citing the challenges regarding our overheads, and payments to be made for labor and raw material.”

“It was understandable that it might be difficult to pay out your workers, suppliers and other stakeholders during the lockdown. However, it is helpful to give your vendors, suppliers, landlords’ etc. sufficient notice in case there is going to be any delay in payments so that they can also be prepared and there is no bitterness in this already difficult time,” she explains.

Lavish eventually prevailed over the crisis in the ensuing months, as efforts on both ends resulted in timely payments that continue even today.

“I would like to emphasize that our clients are wonderfully receptive and understanding, which has resulted in swifter business. Likewise, I realized, workers can empathize with owners facing a crisis, as long as the communication is transparent,” she says.

Related: Lavish makes looking fashionable feel good

11. Attract a global following

Varun Kumar, Founder and CEO of Pashmina, says that his company ended up selling more during the pandemic than ever.

Pashmina is committed to preserving and selling the traditional artisanal craft of Kashmir.

“The reason for that has been our focus on the global markets since our inception. Hence when COVID hit the likes of the U.S, the U.K, Japan and Europe, people out there were so tired of being at home that the only stress buster was online shopping,” says the business and marketing professional. Varun has worked relentlessly to keep the lost glory of Pashmina alive and take the royal art to the world.

Pashmina owner Varun Kumar
Varun Kumar examining a Kani shawl.

However, Varun did face challenges with logistics and supply chain. “The biggest problem we faced was regarding logistics — primarily to be able to move products from Location A to Location B and finally shipping them internationally,” he says.

Like Aarushi, Varun also believes in the power of communication during such difficult times.

“With proper planning and communication, we were able to convince our customers that orders will be processed despite the delay owing to the current crisis. In the process, we were able to not just retain those orders but build an even stronger personal relationship with those customers,” asserts Varun.

Related: Pashmina gives back to the trained craftsmen of Kashmir

11. Think like a big company

As the pandemic forced many small businesses to move online, Varun suggests, “When you sell online, just do not think about a colony, a city or a state to be your market. It can be the whole world. Selling to New Zealand, the US, and Europe could have been unthinkable otherwise, but online has made it possible.”

His suggestion to small business owners is to build their website infrastructure that can manage the global payment gateways and also have in place:

  • Sound logistics tie ups
  • Return policy
  • Privacy policy
  • Terms and conditions

Varun also believes that the need to focus on the business aspiration towards a niche is equally important.

“The more specific you are on the product or the service, you will be able to convey your story more effectively, build on the content, choose the right marketing platform and spend the right budget on marketing,” he says.

12. Consider new ways to deliver your goods or services

In the scenario when people are not going out for shopping and maintaining social distancing, businesses need to explore new delivery channels to overcome this objection.

Ceramic kiln full of bowls ready for firing
Think of ways to get your products to customers who may not want to come to you.

Start offering contactless delivery, contactless payments (PayTM, GooglePay, Aadhaar/AEP) and other safety measures.

For example, few companies have partnered with local grocery stores that people are already accepting delivery from to deliver their items.

Some companies have gone further to make deliveries through drones.

13. Step up your marketing efforts

Social distancing has transformed the way people buy. From grocery to gadgets, everyone is buying it online.

People are spending more time online and developing new habits, and trying new things.

For businesses, it simply means they should invest more in marketing, especially online marketing.

Here are a few things you may do:

  • Create a website to help more people find you
  • Send emails to your past and present customers to let them know how you can help
  • Create sales pages for your products and add the Facebook pixel to them to retarget your visitors on Facebook (proven strategy)

How to find the support your small business needs in an economic recession?

Running your own venture is challenging in the best of times. Take a few minutes away from calling suppliers and reassuring stressed-out workers to take care of yourself in one or more of these ways:

  1. Join your local chamber of commerce.
  2. Get active in professional organizations and groups.
  3. Participate in online forums and meetups.
  4. Call out the wins for your group or community.
  5. Whip up support for other small businesses.
  6. Find a mentor.

There’s no shame in asking for help — right now, it could mean the difference between surviving and throwing in the towel.

1. Join your local chamber of commerce

One reliable source of support during the COVID-19 pandemic is your local chamber of commerce.

Connecting with your local chamber will give you reliable information on:

  • Best practices for surviving a crisis
  • Provincial programs available to SMBs
  • Private sources of financial relief or support
  • Urgent needs in your community

Since the chamber is a credible source of information, you can share their links in messages you send out to your customers, suppliers and partners.

Find a chamber of commerce near you.

2. Get active in professional organizations

A second thing you can do is join or get active in professional organizations and online communities related to your industry or occupation.

Learning how others are coping will reduce your sense of isolation.

You’ll not only get ideas on how to make it through the COVID-19 pandemic, but connect with grassroots efforts in your area.

Here are just a few groups to check out:

The National Institute for Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development

Administered by the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, NIESBD offers workshops and training programmes in import-export, IT and entrepreneurship.

SME Chamber of India

This national chamber provides support and networking opportunities for manufacturing, service and allied industrial/business sectors. SME Chamber of India holds networking events and publishes a bi-monthly magazine.

Facebook Groups

As you likely already know, Facebook Groups are a fantastic way to connect with like-minded people within a given niche or industry.

There are groups centered around small business owners, startups, eCommerce — you name it.

They can be location-based or not. They can be general or specific. What matters is these groups are a means of connecting with other business owners during this difficult time (and beyond).

Here is a list of small business associations and networking groups.

3. Participate in online forums and meetups

This is another excellent resource for building strategic relationships that can help you:

  • Adapt to the new business reality
  • Pivot quickly to continue serving customers
  • Tap into a supportive community online


Check out the small business section of Meetup.com to connect with other business owners.


BNI is short for Business Network International and it is an organization that connects business leaders through a robust referral marketing program. Connect with other local businesses by using their easy online chapter locator to find the nearest chapter.

4. Call out the wins for your group or community

Whether you create your own community or join an existing one, it’s important to recognize members when they go above and beyond.

To do this, you can:

  • Call out exemplary employees/volunteers
  • Share innovative ideas local businesses are using to adapt their delivery models
  • Celebrate philanthropy or charitable acts when they occur

Cheerleading has never been more important — if you see something laudable, make a big deal!

5. Whip up support for other small businesses

Now more than ever it’s important to spend a little extra time supporting others. A few suggestions:

  • Promote other small businesses doing great things
  • Send business to other companies when you can
  • Support fundraising drives for small businesses hard hit by COVOID-19
  • Announce partnerships, especially if it involves a service discount or deal

Remember, there is strength in numbers.

6. Find a mentor

If you’ve put off finding a mentor or lost touch with one, now is the time to start or renew contact with a trusted other.

A mentor in your field can provide the perspective you need.

Mentors can be guiding lights through these challenging times, offering tips and best practices based on years of experience. And if your mentor offers consultancy services, you should make every effort to recruit their services and to promote their services within your business community as well.

Business survival is all about attitude

“One should keep in mind that online business is brutal to say the least in today’s world," notes Varun. “There will be a lot of struggle, lots of pain, expensive mistakes — but never give up. A lot of passion and commitment is needed for business survival, especially in difficult times.”

Small business owners who are struggling to stay open or preparing to reopen should understand and use every possible opportunity that comes their way.

Endure. Persevere. Adapt. Pivot.

These are the key mantras of business survival, especially during a crisis situation. The silver lining is, if you win the support and trust of your customers and workers, you’ve already survived and won the race.

UPDATE: This post was first published on 21 October 2022 and updated on 15 January 2024. It also contains content written by Brenda Barron, Divya Singh Srivastava, Shweta Saxena and .

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