Some operators in the Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) sector have called for increased assistance in the area of digitalisation to help them increase their value and productivity, especially post-COVID.
They said adopting digital tools could help avoid a complete halt of their businesses during the COVID-19 crisis.
In an interview on January 20, 2021, on how the SMEs are bouncing back post-COVID, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Giddins Innove, manufacturers of local leather footwear and handbags, Mr Gideon Dendzo, said having the ability to go digital became a matter of life and death worldwide and many SMEs which showed their ability to change their business models survived.
He said the situation had created an unprecedented reliance on digitalisation such that his company took advantage of the lockdown to engage its customers through digital / social media platforms such as WhatsApp.
He said the company engaged its customers to build a bond with them so they could still have sales, deepen their social media engagement, and intensify the reach through more of sponsored adverts among other things.
“What really helped us was that we had a recovery product realising that weddings, work and other events were on the low and so people did not need shoes, though at any point in time they need footwear.”
“So, we paused production for shoes and did more of slippers, and handbags too, though not much. We had to restrategise and do what people would need,” he said.
Mr Dendzo said his company still had to reposition some of their products as gift items especially during the Christmas, and also liaised with other SMEs to sell through product bundling (add products to others as gift package).
“The most important thing is for SMEs to restrategise their product line and engage customers more. During the lockdown, 60 per cent of our sales came through social media.”
“Although we were hit somehow and didn’t really make some of our target, on the whole we were able to maintain our staff and even recruited two more people. We are just hoping for the best this year,” he said.
Another entrepreneur, Mrs Gertrude Kunde-Kwallinjam of SmockyWorld, producers of quality hand woven smock fabric and smock-made ready-to-wear apparels, said her company leveraged digitalisation to improve the business operations and customer satisfaction.
“We do a lot of social media and have other digital platforms because we are based in Tamale and sell nationwide. Digitalisation represents a significant shift in how businesses thrive.”
“We need more of the digital push which sometimes take a lot of the cost and profit. For now, everybody seems to be on digital level and that’s how to spread the news,” she said.
She recalled business was tough at the onset of COVID-19 as they had to let some staff go home while few stayed on allowances.
However, realising fashion was not moving, they restrategised into the production of fabric masks and was fortunate to be among the first 10 companies to secure the Food and Drugs Authority’s (FDA) approval for face masks.
“This gave us an upper hand as we sold to some banks, schools, churches, and did some as gift packs and produced customised ones for people outside Ghana too. We didn’t make a loss per se because we diverted,” she said.
Digitalisation represents a significant shift in how businesses thrive. We need more of the digital push which sometimes takes a lot of the cost and profit. For now, everybody seems to be on digital level and that’s how to spread the news.
Mrs Kunde-Kwallinjam said her company was “back to our primary business plan because fabric masks sales have reduced,” while hoping to receive government support following an application they have put in to be able to extend its reach.
For her part, the CEO of Aquatic World Industries, engaged in the production, processing and sale of fresh tilapia and cat fish, Ms Mabel Quarshie, corroborated the need for a further push for entrepreneurs to go digital.
She noted even before COVID some awareness was created on the need for SMEs to adopt digitalisation to help reduce costs, standardise and automate business processes, and also enhance their competitiveness and understand consumer behaviours.
“COVID taught us to take digitalisation seriously because if you can sit at home and still sell it is better so you won’t put yourself at risk. Support should really come from there because right now most of my selling comes through online and other social media platforms,” she stated.