The unexpected Covid-19 crisis severely affected an array of businesses globally, and Nepal was no exception. Apparently, the startups had to face even more difficult challenges as their survival is threatened even in normal days. Most of the Nepali startups halted their operation, some modified their modus operandi and some worked in collaboration with other businesses to mark their existence throughout the shutdown. Meanwhile, there were a few startups that thrived during the lockdown as exceptions.
On July 21, however, the government of Nepal ended the 120-day-long nationwide lockdown with some restrictions still in effect. By now, all sorts of companies including startups have resumed their operations. But still, continuous struggle to sustain is going to be a reality for the startups due to the economic fallout of the coronavirus chaos. They are finding it hard to catch and match the pace of normal operation days.
For the startups who are endeavouring to cope with this economic downturn instigated by the unprecedented COVID-19 catastrophe and make their existence in the market after the lockdown, here are some of the tips from Niraj Khanal, the CEO and a co-founder of Antarprenana, a company that supports entrepreneurs with mentorship, incubation programmes, and investments.
Focus on ‘concept businesses’
There are many examples of the startups that managed to sustain even in such a prolonged lockdown by addressing the need of the customers and customising their products and services accordingly. From the initial stage of this pandemic, it was assumed that ‘concept businesses’ will be able to sustain and take off as well. These are the businesses that modify their goods and services as per the need and situation of the consumers accomodating with the current circumstances. Even now, after the lockdown as well, such companies will sustain and progress.
Jack Ma of Alibaba Group said that for people in business, 2020 is just a year for staying alive. He is right; 2020 is a survival year. Rather than focusing on progress, startups should focus on survival. However, survival will be very tough for the companies which stick to status-quo and resist change in the business landscape.
The startups should work on introducing innovative packages for the customers rather than sticking to their prices or rates of their products and services.
Minimise operational costs wherever possible
To survive this COVID-19 crisis, the startups should aim at cutting down the administrative costs wherever possible. They should thoroughly study their expenses during normal circumstances and figure out where and how they can minimise the expenditure.
For example, startups can look for shared co-working spaces. Even, they can also share their staff like accountants. They can limit their business to certain locality or area. Especially for the e-commerce companies, it will a bit easy to make some cash flow if they target their niche markets.
The startups should communicate with the team, other stakeholders, and customers regularly. By communicating properly, they can manage some costs. For example, the startups can negotiate with the landlords about deferring the payment schedule or can ask for some discounts on rent. Likewise, they can promise to the landlord that they will pay all the rent amount of this year when they will start to earn better.
The startups should communicate with their staff about their salary payment. Instead of laying off the staffers, they can make commitments to provide the full salary of this year, but the schedule may delay. Else, they can tell the staff that they will now provide a minimum amount required for their monthly expenses and will pay the remaining amount after the company will catch the pace.
Keep the team intact
Maintain close relationships with the team members and colleagues. The team is the core of any business. If there is a team, the very team with their efforts will bring the customers afterwards. So, one should focus on keeping the team connected and engaged.
Of course, there are challenges in keeping the team intact. But, there are options too. For those companies who adopted the work-from-home model or kept their team engaged in some ways or the other during the lockdown, it has been easy to come back now in the market. But, for the companies that laid off their employees, it has been very tough to recruit new employees due to health and financial factors. Also, for those businesses that sent their staffers on unpaid leave during such a harsh time, it has been difficult to rebuild the trust within those staff and ask them to rejoin.
The companies that kept working even during the lockdown, with zero income, have generated prospects/leads with the costumers. This strategy has aided the startups to come back to the market and bring businesses easily. But, it has been very difficult for the startups which completely shut their operations at the time of the lockdown to resume.
Collaborate and cooperate
To sustain in this uncertain time, the startups should work in collaboration with other similar startups or business firms. As of now, collaboration and cooperation can aid the companies to exist in their business. Maintaining warm relationships with collaborators is also very important.
Make a brand presence in the market
The startups should mark their existence in the market in any way without considering the volume of their business. For example, they can make their brand presence on social media also. They should maintain close engagements with the costumers. Therefore, social media posts should not be about buying or selling products; they can also post some social messages in order to keep the customers involved.