A profitable SME ecosystem needs peer support to Thrive On Change

This year’s 7th edition of the ASCENT Conclave focuses on establishing that Thriving on Change is the only way to build sustainable, profitable, and growth-oriented businesses. Archanna Das, CEO of ASCENT the 10-year-old peer learning platform shares, “Peer learning has only transgressed to take a higher role of peer support in the past couple of years for the entrepreneurs surviving in the current, dynamic Indian economy. In this respect, one thing that has indeed remained constant has been ‘change’. All businesses regardless of their scale, sector, or leaders had to change/adopt/adapt to survive the dynamism. Peer learning in our 74 Trust Groups has enabled entrepreneurs to navigate influential changes like technology establishment, FinTech emergence and digital payments, inflation, changed customer dynamics, hybrid workforce management, etc.”

Your capacity to adapt to evolving technologies as a small business owner can make your company survive. It all depends on whether you consider technology to be an expense or an investment for your company. Archanna Das added, “The SME ecosystem has thrived through adapting technology and securing the movers’ advantage. Our ASCENTERS have witnessed the notable impact on adapting their businesses to technology- to modernize and remain relevant.” 

As marketplaces become more competitive, many small and medium-sized businesses rapidly adopt technologies t. Automation is being used to automate mundane operations, cloud technology is replacing physical servers, and tech adoption by small and medium-sized organizations (SMEs) is increasing. Continue reading the stories of entrepreneurs Sahil Vaidya, co-founder of The Minimalist, one of India’s fastest-growing creative solutions companies, and Dr. Sanjay Arora the Founder of Suburban Diagnostics a leading diagnostic center and pathology lab offering its services across Western India to learn why SMEs must adopt technology and which technologies are vital for business success.


  1. How they rose to create a profitable business module from an SME business setup?

Discussing his journey till now, Dr. Sanjay Arora, Founder, of Suburban Diagnostics says that right from inception, ensuring costs are less than income was the dictum. As we grew, maintaining a positive cash flow was essential; some ways to measure this is to ensure salaries get paid on time, and vendor payments are made within the agreed timelines. During the growth period, it is important to ensure that growth in expenses must be less than 50% of income growth.

Whereas The Minimalist’s growth journey has been very unique. In 2015, we started a Facebook page that went viral for its thought-provoking and minimalist content. Sahil Vaidya, Co-Founder, The Minimalist started on his journey by building a community of over 150k followers, and looking at that traction, many leading brands reached out to us and asked us to work on their branding, marketing, and UX journeys. That’s how the company started, and over the years we’ve grown to a team of 160+ creative minds that have delivered inventive work across marketing solutions and experience design for some of the biggest global brands, including HDFC Bank, Airtel, Coca-Cola, Tata, and Mahindra Group.


  1. How they managed cash flows during inflation, pandemic, and demand crunch?

During the pandemic, as a healthcare organization, challenges for Suburban Diagnostics were more about predicting the demand and being able to manage manpower expansion as well as ensuring a robust supply chain. The unpredictability of Covid infections which came in waves was the biggest challenge for us.

However, The Minimalist had a smooth sailing journey through the pandemic. A sound focus on financial best practices has ensured that they never had a cash flow problem and had built a position that helped us to withstand the Covid shock without any adverse effects. The business grew much faster in post-2020. Secondly, The Minimalist always focuses on delivering intelligence that has a direct impact on our client’s business growth, which has helped us grow over the last few years.


  1. Why is diversification of business really necessary for MSMEs in India to survive for the next 10 years?

According to Sahil Vaidya and Dr. Sanjay Arora, The next decade will see dramatic changes in consumer behavior and technological trends. All businesses are witnessing the impact of technology. It is said, all businesses will eventually become software companies to some extent. With the rapid change in technology and consumer behaviors, companies must be able to pivot to these demands. The accelerated levels of digitalization, evolving mental models of new-age consumers, and the rise of web3 might radically alter the way products and experiences are delivered- and businesses will have to stay ahead of the curve to stay relevant in a decade that’s going to be very different from any of the previous ones.


  1. Does the emergence of empathetic cultural values leads to long-term profitability in businesses?

The pandemic has changed the work culture and expectations of work-life balance. Sahil Vaidya says that empathy is one of the 5 core values we have at The Minimalist and has been critical in ensuring a positive and considerate work culture. As a team that focuses a lot on design thinking, it is imperative for us and has also allowed us to understand our customer’s needs in a much better way. It does seem to be a very critical piece in ensuring long-term growth.

Dr. Sanjay Arora too agrees with empathy is imperative for all businesses to acknowledge this and act accordingly. With an increasing demand for skilled manpower, retention of critical talent becomes essential for all businesses. Understanding the current expectations from the workforce is an essential input for policies for all businesses; this will have a direct correlation with steady business growth and profitability.


  1. Key differentiation between an entrepreneur and a leader

Sharing his take on entrepreneurship & leadership Dr. Sanjay Arora says that an entrepreneur is more adept at risk-taking, is instinctive, and follows his/her passion. A leader is more process-oriented and can adapt to most industries. An entrepreneur is very hands-on and prefers to do things themselves while a leader is more adept at building teams and delegating. Whereas according to Sahil Vaidya entrepreneurs spot gaps/opportunities and build ideas to take advantage of them, and leaders help maintain that advantage and build on top of it by inspiring the team and getting things done


  1. Hybrid workforce management – a task for regional tech-based companies.

Commenting on Hybrid Workforce management, they said that hybrid is a buzzword as an outcome of the Covid Pandemic. The explosion of the internet and its connectivity (penetration of telecommunication networks) across the country, allowed technology companies to survive during the pandemic. This has now become a norm. We’re seeing a shift towards much more flexibility in terms of the model of working, and companies will have to listen to what their talent wants instead of sticking to the old ways of working.  However, the fabric of in-person relationship building cannot be replaced by technology. Hence, depending on the type of business, a hybrid workforce (3 days in the office and 2 days working from home) is a reality. Moonlighting is unfortunately an unwelcome outcome


  1. Support MSMEs can receive from their communities and how success can be mapped through peer learning of like-minded leaders?

Sharing his thoughts on the peer learning platform ASCENT, Sahil Vaidya, Co-Founder, of The Minimalist says that “Entrepreneurs can constantly learn from other people’s mistakes, and forums such as ASCENT for sharing and co-learning are very helpful for implementing new ideas, crowdsourcing solutions to existing issues, and broadening one’s horizons.”

Platforms like Ascent bring like-minded business owners together. Here, leaders enjoy cross-fertilization of ideas and exchange of experiences, learning from each other. Learning from the experiences (mistakes) of well-established business leaders is the best opportunity for new and upcoming business leaders. Said Dr. Sanjay Arora, Founder, Suburban Diagnostics sharing his experience with ASCENT Foundation.

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