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The significance of India-first innovations to make future-ready MSMEs a reality

The significance of India-first innovations to make future-ready MSMEs a reality
  • To empower Indian businesses, creating tailored solutions that address the unique requirements of the local market, is crucial.
  • To foster digital growth through India-first innovations, it is essential to cultivate robust ecosystems through public-private partnerships.
  • For these businesses to thrive on digital platforms, it was vital to facilitate a seamless transition from the offline to the online world.
India has a staggering number of 63 million micro, small and medium enterprises or MSMEs. These emerging businesses hold the key to realising our ambitious vision of "Make in India; Made for the world”. Presently, they already contribute around 33% to our nation's GDP and are projected to make a remarkable USD 1 trillion contribution to India's total exports by 2028. However, despite their substantial impact, these budding businesses face numerous challenges on their path to success. This is where I strongly believe that ease of doing business (EoDB) goes far beyond just creating a favourable regulatory and credit ecosystem. To truly empower our MSMEs, we need to provide them the right education, initial business hand holding, and tailored solutions that address their diverse and unique needs of businesses.

India: Land of unique opportunities

India is a large, fragmented, and heterogeneous market. Within the country, there are large —and often underestimated — regional differences in language, culture, talent, infrastructure, and wealth, all of which led to wide variations in business landscapes. Other than the well-documented differences in language and development, demographic differences are also significant. And like for the customers, providing personalised tools, programs and strategies is essential to ensure that emerging businesses from every part of the country have a democratised and equal selling experience.

A decade ago, online selling was met with scepticism rather than enthusiasm. Sellers were at the early stages of their digital transformation journey and were hesitant to embrace internet-based selling or digital payment methods to expand their businesses. Gaining their trust required meeting sellers face-to-face and providing comprehensive assistance and reassurances. While online marketplaces had processes in place to recruit sellers, there was a clear need for a more personalised approach to cater to the specific needs of sellers. By establishing strong rapport, addressing concerns, and offering hands-on assistance, online marketplaces were able to foster trust and instil confidence in sellers about embracing digital selling. This approach bridged the gap between traditional sellers and online marketplaces, facilitating their digital transformation and expanding their businesses.

Customised solutions for targeted issues

The local kirana stores found throughout Indian cities are not just ordinary markets. They are unique places that go beyond fulfilling our daily needs. These neighbourhood stores have become the heart and soul of their communities, catering to the diverse demands of the local population. Unlike large retail chains, they know their customers by name, understand their preferences, and often provide tailored recommendations. For these businesses to thrive on digital platforms, it was vital to facilitate a seamless transition from the offline to the online world. This included expanding the logistics network across India and ensuring efficient and timely delivery of goods. Indian innovations like Easy Ship and Seller flex helped bridge the gap between physical and digital realms through a robust logistics infrastructure. With this, kirana stores were empowered to tap into the vast opportunities presented by online platforms, allowing them to thrive in the digital landscape.

To empower Indian businesses, creating tailored solutions that address the unique requirements of the local market, is crucial. India-first innovations can encompass various aspects, such as technology, infrastructure, and policies. Embracing digital solutions, such as mobile payment systems and e-commerce platforms, can help MSMEs expand their customer reach and streamline operations. By encouraging innovation, providing financial assistance, and facilitating market access, we can empower these businesses to succeed and contribute significantly to the Indian economy.

Painting 'local' as the vibrant colour on the national and global canvas

Limited market access stands as a major obstacle for local MSMEs aspiring to capture national and global markets. These MSMEs face various challenges, including low adoption of standards, logistical complexities, trade barriers, and insufficient market intelligence. Such hurdles hinder their competitiveness, as they struggle to gather timely and actionable market information. Unfortunately, only a handful of players in the Indian MSME sector possess the necessary visibility to navigate these challenges effectively. With focused programs like Amazon Karigar, Amazon Saheli and Local Shops, today local artisans and businesses are finding a seat on the table. These platforms have shifted needles for first-generation entrepreneurs and emerging brands, enabling them to enter and thrive in the global market. According to the data from the Directorate General of Commercial Intelligence & Statistics shared by the minister of state for MSMEs in 2022, the share of MSME exports in the country’s total exports stood at a whopping 42.67 percent. With government’s support and recognition for such initiatives, it will become more commonplace for companies to build such support programs that handhold emerging businesses in their global journeys.

Collaboration for ecosystem building

To foster digital growth through India-first innovations, it is essential to cultivate robust ecosystems through public-private partnerships. For example, recently Amazon signed an MoU with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), New Delhi to empower farmers by providing scientific cultivation guidance and enhancing their livelihoods. Amazon also signed an MoU with Rajasthan Grameen Aajeevika Vikas Parishad (RGAVP) last year —an autonomous society by the Government of Rajasthan—to support the growth of women artisans and self-help groups (SHGs) across the state. By forming such strategic alliances and networks, these innovations promote the sharing of knowledge, access to resources, and collective problem-solving. This collaborative approach strengthens the MSME ecosystem, providing businesses with the vital support and guidance needed to navigate the digital landscape with confidence. Partnership with state governments, industry bodies and other ecosystem enablers will ensure MSMEs benefit in the longer run.

As I gaze into the horizon of possibilities, it becomes evident that our path forward lies in cultivating India-first, India-fit innovations. These transformative ideas will empower our MSMEs to soar new heights, embodying the vision of our honourable Prime Minister to create an Aatmanirbhar Bharat—a self-reliant India.

(The writer is the director of selling partner services at Amazon India)

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