COVID-19 has been a challenge to daunt every MSME. When the pandemic first hit, my company was a success that I’d built up over more than 20 years.
I founded Akhil Marketing in Kanpur in 1996. At first, it was just me. I was a recent graduate with a diploma in Civil Engineering, but I had a dream of exploring the textile industry. Soon, I added a single employee, and, with hard work and passion, my business flourished.
By the end of 2019, I had a team of 50 helping me manage the whole supply chain: from machinists on the factory floor to experts in finishing, packaging and sales. And our product catalogue had expanded to include bedsheets, curtains, cushion covers and handloom fabrics.
But then the pandemic shook my business and my team at a fundamental level. We faced several challenges—our cash flow was disrupted, we had to shut down production, and our supplies of raw materials were badly affected.
Despite all the hardships, I didn’t lose hope. I was determined to support my employees. We managed to stay afloat during the first COVID-19 wave, but the second wave brought new risks, including payment delays.
Like other MSME owners across India vying to keep their businesses running, I understood that I needed to quickly evolve.
In May 2021, two months after the second wave began, I joined the Walmart Vriddhi program.
Walmart Vriddhi is like a free short-term MBA course for MSMEs like me who do not have a business background. I’m thankful that I could study the modules in Hindi, which made me feel more comfortable, and then review them in English to pick up new business terminology.
With support and expertise from Walmart, Walmart Vriddhi has given me the opportunity to grow in the market. I have learned a lot and applied these learnings to my day-to-day business. More than a foundation in online selling, it has been a way for me to quickly bring new digital capabilities into my business.
We’ve already implemented new-age technologies to update our business processes and streamline the retail supply chain for our existing offline customers. Similarly, we automated some of our standard procedures, like counter billing and accounting, which has helped us save manpower and time.
Bold B2B play
Even more significantly, the training set me up to grow the eCommerce leg of our business. In August 2021, we expanded and opened a separate eCommerce office space. Digital sales are now a robust 30% of total sales.
Looking ahead, eCommerce is going to be about more than simply selling our product lines. We are making it the foundation for a new, bold business-to-business (B2B) play.
I am now in the process of setting up a specialised eCommerce team. My aim is to build a community of over 300 retailers who purchase products from us to sell online. I want to establish my own eCommerce facility to reach customers pan-India.
The goal is to convert 50% of our capacity to an online mode. We really have turned a challenge into an opportunity.