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  • Friday, December, 2022| Today's Market | Current Time: 03:35:40
  • COVID-19 dealt a severe blow to India’s thriving SME sector, with supply chain disruptions, attrition, and decline in sales being the least of the damage that the pandemic caused. India’s 6.3 Crore MSMEs are arguably the backbone of the economy, but that didn’t prevent the sector from facing an average decline in sales of 11% due to the numerous curfews and lockdowns in 2021. The year before, this decline was even worse, standing at an average of 46%.

    Nonetheless, this time frame served as an opportunity for SMEs to catch up on the digital transformation journey that India has been on for the past few years.

    It was a time when going to financial institutions, retaining employees, and maintaining employee wellbeing were challenging activities, but several startups stepped in to help SMEs overcome these challenges. Be it accessing credit online or hiring, training, and retaining employees, these companies helped SMEs take their businesses online and provided them with ample support to take care of their employees’ financial wellbeing.

    Thanks to the efforts of these startups, small businesses have embraced changes such as accessing credit online, accepting online orders, installing QR codes, and much more. Below, we have listed five Indian startups that have helped SMEs not just survive but establish a foundation of exponential growth during the pandemic:

    1. Protium – MSME Business Lending

    Availability of credit from traditional banking solutions was a big problem for SMEs, Protium, a full-stack lender with a pan-India branch presence, stepped up to the task of empowering these businesses. Protium was founded by former Goldman Sachs Partner Peeyush Misra. He believes that cutting-edge engineering is critical to reaching credit seekers in every part of India.

    The company aims to ensure that no deserving credit-seeker misses out on a line of credit just because of their location, language, or lack of access to formal institutions.

    To that end, Protium has built a fully digital disbursal system that has helped the company serve over 5 lakh customers in 15,000 pin codes, resulting in the rapid establishment of 53 branches in 36 cities across the country. The company has helped SMEs grow by lending credit worth crores of rupees through their direct sales teams and online. Their lending capabilities include digitally providing secured and unsecured lending solutions from INR 1 Lakh to 5 Crores to thriving small businesses in tier 1, 2, and 3 cities. Protium Sakshara, the company’s business that caters to educational institutions, has provided relief to hundreds of schools during the pandemic while also helping them expand their infrastructure and close gaps in their working capital.

    2. Valyu.ai – Early wages and employee benefits

    Many blue-collar employees, especially those working for SMEs, have faced numerous challenges during the pandemic due to increased medical costs, reduced family income, etc. Valyu.ai helped SMEs provide financial stability to their workers during this crucial time with innovative employee benefits such as early wages.

    The company aims to reduce financial stress among employees and help employers build a more reliable and trustworthy brand. Valyu.ai uses AI and machine learning to provide customised solutions for each employee in a seamless digital experience. Employees are happier, which means companies face less absenteeism and attrition.

    3. DigiChal – Helping SMEs go digital

    Lockdowns and concerns about safety prompted many people to go online to buy their essentials, causing small business owners to struggle to stay afloat. DigiChal helped these owners take their business online so that they could continue to serve their customers, just like any big online retail startup.

    Founded in January 2021, DigiChal is the fastest-growing mobile app for store owners and small businesses. Their vision is to become India’s leading business management app for offline retailers/store owners. DigiChal enables offline retailers/store owners & small businesses to take their business online and track their business transactions safely and securely.

    4. Loadshare Networks – building logistics for SMEs

    Many SMEs opted for e-commerce as a route to stay afloat during the pandemic and found that customers continued to make purchases online, even after physical stores opened up. Loadshare Networks helped SMEs solve their logistical challenges by offering reliable and cost-effective inter-city and intra-city movement of goods.

    The company is an end-to-end logistics provider that encompasses first mile and last mile, line-haul, and warehousing among its offerings.

    5. PayU

    During the pandemic and lockdown, PayU introduced multiple initiatives to support SMEs that helped several thousand SMEs improve business efficiencies, increase customer convenience, and reduce costs. PayU provides payment gateway solutions to online businesses through its cutting-edge and award-winning technology-based in data science. In India, PayU serves more than 4,50,000+ merchants with over 100+ payment methods and is the preferred payment partner for e-commerce merchants, including all leading e-commerce companies and a majority of airline businesses.


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