SMEs in Environmental and Social Consciousness, environmental, social, consciousness, symbiotic, business, relationship, development, moral, ethical, informal, contribution, society, key, micro, prime, horizon, impact, outsource

Gone are the days when environmental and social consciousness were alienable factors in the field of business. The global situation today has concretized a symbiotic relationship between business development and socio-environmental sustainability. In addition to the apparent moral and ethical factors that have driven this growth, there is a lesser-known reality when it comes to social and environmental consciousness in businesses. There is a direct correlation between the environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive approaches of business and its economic growth. SMEs play a major role in this context.

SMEs make a major contribution to the GDP as well as employment of the nation, especially when informal businesses are taken into account. Entrepreneurs behind these SMEs are known to identify opportunities that are overlooked by several major enterprises and thereby bring innovative solutions to society. It is undeniable that SMEs are key drivers of job creation at a micro level, thereby promoting social inclusion and uplifting through providing employment and skill development in the deepest strata of society.

However, when it comes to environmental sustainability, due to a variety of factors ranging from lack of awareness to feasibility, such small and micro enterprises are known to face several challenges. However, like it has been said, every challenge brings with it a new opportunity. Even in this case, due to their control over local markets, small and micro enterprises have the opportunity to capitalize on their stronghold by easily adopting sustainable solutions in their everyday operations. In simple words, SMEs can adopt green business approaches and sync them to their economic success.

A prime example of such a nexus of profit maximization and environmental sustainability is resource optimization. Businesses can optimize their resource consumption by experimenting and identifying the most resource-efficient way to carry out their business. This serves two purposes. Firstly, there is a positive impact on the environment due to reduced wastage. Secondly, businesses can reduce costs significantly by ensuring that they are consuming and utilizing each resource to its utmost capacity, which ultimately increases their profit margins.

Another horizon of opportunity lies for SMEs who adopt green business and sustainability as their main USP. Some examples that come to mind are businesses that are engaged in selling organic home-grown products, repairing and refurbishing used products before reselling them, upcycling products, as well as carrying out recycling endeavors at local levels. Due to their size and the market that they function in, SMEs have the benefit of having a customer base where there is a demand for a lot of these products, such as refurbished or repaired products which come at a reduced rate. Moreover, they can collaborate with several large enterprises that look to outsource their sustainable activities.

With the right kind of guidance and support, entrepreneurs can unleash their innovation and explore a world of opportunities. Needless to say, VFS Capital is always ready to be a reliable support system for entrepreneurs who have the zeal to undertake such endeavors and contribute to the socio-environmental future of society in their special way.

Fintech is transforming microfinance, change, microfinance, technology, landscape, integration, visibility, accessibility, fintec, solution, financial, identity, management, society, visibility, transparency, prospective, human, error, diversity, burden, artificial, intelligence

The winds of change are sweeping through the microfinance industry’s technology landscape and they are loving it. Fintech aims at integration, visibility, and accessibility, which are the goals of pioneer microfinance institutions. Fintech enables MFIs to enrich their functioning. However, the effects are multi-layered and not always a quick solution.

MFIs are mandated to provide their range of financial services to poor but enterprising women. Most of VFS Capital’s clients live in rural India and have seen financial struggles up close. However, many families who are most in need of our assistance cannot access it because of logistical hurdles. The adoption of technology in microfinance gives these families a chance to clear these hurdles. Committed MFIs, using technological strategies and devices, can reach and serve communities that were so far inaccessible.

MFIs must commit a big chunk of their resources to the process of verifying a client’s identity and needs. By using fintech, the verification process can be digitized and digitalized, making it considerably time- and cost-effective. Multiple levels of the microfinance industry can be transformed for the better with the use of technology in payments and management. The time and cost that are saved can be spent on upgrading the abilities of MFIs to uplift society.

MFIs have improved their visibility and transparency by taking to automation and digitalization. Technology simplifies and standardizes procedures that start from the time a prospective customer enquires about a loan, to the application, approval, collection, and follow-up. Consequently, real-time record-keeping and tracking minimize the chances of human error.

The use of technology also solves a pervasive problem: discrimination. Streamlining procedures using fintech is a step towards diversity and inclusion as it reduces the chances of bias.

However, with such benefits come several responsibilities. The MFIs have to train those responsible for handling the processes. The MFIs have to ensure data privacy, given that data is money. MFIs have to bear the burden of ensuring that these requirements are met.

It may take some time to adopt fintech in management and decision-making, and use artificial intelligence and other progressive technologies, but MFIs are already maximizing the potential of using fintech in rationalizing routine procedures and due processes.

Affordable Housing helps SMEs, business, decision, location, transportation, logistics, consumers, financial, property, scale, workplace, entrepreneur, factor, msme, comfort, circle, sme, locality, sector

Out of the several determinations to be made before starting a business, one crucial decision is the location. The place wherein a business is located is essentially the heart of its operations. The location must be chosen with care, considering that it is the connecting organ for several business processes.

For instance, especially for small and medium enterprises, the employees are often a tight-knit group of people from the same locality. Further, a range of factors such as the transportation of the team for the daily operations, logistics of raw materials and finished products, and accessibility for consumers also make it important to select a well-connected place of business. However, an undeniably decisive factor that determines the choice of the location is the financial ability to support it.

The costs involved in renting, leasing, or buying a property for carrying out business, as well as the recurring costs of maintenance and operations, are known to limit the possibilities for many entrepreneurs. So it is an extremely common practice in India for SMEs to operate out of their owners’ homes.

Since the scale of the business is limited in the beginning, the space provided by one’s home is often enough. The employees also find it easy to reach their workplace so they can work longer since there is no commuting time. The locality is familiar for the entrepreneur and often comes with established contacts, reliable sources, and pre-existing goodwill that attracts consumers.

The fact that the entrepreneur does not need to allocate a considerable amount of funds for renting or leasing out a new location, is normally the prime influencing factor behind choosing to work out of one’s own home. It is in this context that the world of SMEs and the subject of affordable housing are intricately interlinked.

With a majority of the MSME sector being located in rural areas, the accessibility to housing cannot be taken for granted. Opting for separate spaces to operate a business is a distant dream for most and a privilege reserved for a small minority. In such a scenario, making affordable housing available solves two problems in one stroke.

Families are provided with the assurance and comfort of having a secured space to stay. Additionally, with the help of the same space, people with an entrepreneurial mindset can operate their businesses with no incremental cost of real estate. Not only can the affordable housing facilities provide a location for business operations, but the proceeds and profit from the business can in turn be used to repay the loan secured for affordable housing. Thus, the story of the mutual benefit derived comes a full circle.

In my opinion, improving access to affordable housing across various strata of society and creating awareness regarding existing mechanisms can boost the SME sector in India.

Resolution and Hope—2 key ingredients, commonality, component, monster, ominous, sleep, reality, menace, struggle, business, pandemic, loan, spirit, misfortune, determination, skill, game, support, business

There is an unsaid commonality between all kinds of plans and strategies. It is the component that often causes many people to not start with their ventures in the first place. It is also what causes many others to give up on their plans at the first sight of the monster lifting its ominous head. This component is known to haunt even the sturdiest lot of people, sometimes even depriving them of a peaceful night's sleep.

Some, possibly due to their own set of encounters, might have already guessed what it is. This lingering reality is none other than the fear of unpredictable risks, the one that sneaks up despite carefully designed strategies; the very thing that we did not foresee.

This shape-shifting menace, which we often label as the "risk factor", can visit one at the most opportune time, just when things have started picking up. On other occasions, it can also prop itself up to pile on to an already dire struggle.

Such was the situation of our Manika Adhikary.

A mother of two, she had availed herself of our resources to buy a cycle rickshaw van for her business. After rising to meet an already long and tiring battle with the pandemic, as life would have it, her van was stolen one fateful day. Thus, she was deprived of the fruit of her labor. But she repaid the loan that she had taken against it.

It is in these situations when the resolute are tested at the brink of their capacities that their undying spirit reveals itself. Instead of succumbing to the misfortune, Manika responded with renewed willpower. One might infer that her experience with the world had toughened her enough to know better than to give in to the clutches of misfortune. Instead of blaming fate, she resolved to move forward with steadfast determination.

Making the best of what she still possessed, that is, the invaluable blend of hope and skill, she started a new business. With the support of her family, she started a sewing business. Not only is she supporting her livelihood but is also set on availing yet another loan to buy a new van that shall put her back in the game.

Manika's story is a reflection of the fierce women who are empowered with a treasure that they refuse to let anyone steal: hope.

It is in front of these powerful warriors with unfazed grit that the monster of unpredictability bows down. They face the unfortunate circumstances that life throws at them, head-on.

The testimonial of Manika's fight for success is an inspiration for the numerous strugglers who despite all odds, dare to hope. For these warriors who help themselves in the toughest of times, VFS Capital shall do everything in its power to proudly stand as a pillar of support, by believing in them yet again.

Micro to Small – An organic progression, quality, dynamism, entrepreneur, injustice, factor, society, stagnancy, world, comfort, pyramid, business, financial, family, strategy, workforce, organic, jumpstart, journey, compliance

One quality that is almost always associated with entrepreneurs is “dynamism”. Entrepreneurs succeed because of their ability to bring about change. However, it would be an injustice to accept this common factor without delving into the intricacies of why risk-takers have this quality and understanding its true essence.

Society usually has a set mechanism of functioning. Almost always, there are conventional ways in which a society carries out certain operations. Most of the general public is conditioned into accepting these “ways of the world” without much resistance, and blends into the spirit of conformity. While it is rightfully believed that such conformity is essential to ensure that there are few disruptions, whenever this conformity arises out of blind acceptance, it can breed stagnancy.

It is at this stage of stagnancy that entrepreneurs see the possibility of change. With their refreshing take on existing mechanisms, they aim to bring about new and improved ways of achieving goals. They proudly wear the title of disruptors while breaking out of the cocoon of their comfort zone and embracing risks in the pursuit of their dreams.

In the world in which VFS Capital operates, where many complain about the challenges that they have while living at the bottom of the financial pyramid, the go-getters adopt a problem-solving attitude to soar over the hurdles. But still, businesses that start with the hope of poverty alleviation keep facing obstacles once they have come out of the purview of microfinance and jump into a whole different world of SME business.

On the other hand, there are a bunch of businesses that are ready to accept the challenges. And once they have taken the leap of faith, there is no stopping them. After decades of facilitating women champions to start their entrepreneurial journey, through offerings of financial services, and handholding them through the process of operating their micro-enterprises, we find that many of them have grown into businesses that can be classified into ‘small’ enterprises.

A few key transformations that we find in them involve their approach to providing employment. Being at a micro level, hiring is primarily restricted to family members or those in the vicinity. But the recruitment strategy eventually changes to hiring a pre-skilled workforce, irrespective of any relations with the employers.

Another aspect to consider is how the small business owner allocates time to herself. At a micro level, we find that the owner spends considerable time in direct production. But as they grow into becoming small, the owner needs to take time off to plan resources for growth.

Lastly, and the most important, the change would be the increased compliance needs. By the sheer increase of the number of transactions in a small business, we can assume that effort on book-keeping and other administrative needs will be far greater than for a micro.

Even without changing the business model, not all transitions from micro to small are organic. But the fear of change should not inhibit any entrepreneur from growing. Having said that, it would also help to have the same guide that they had during their initial journey to give them a jumpstart in their new venture.

Dealing with temporary business setbacks, business, life, pandemic, hope, temporary, normal, ready, difficult, technique, situation, recovery, confidence, control, progress, success, failure, judgement

Even as life rolls back to normalcy, there are quite a few business owners who are yet to recover from the setbacks of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some seem to have given up hope while many are worrying about re-starting from a step lower.

We need to understand that while the pandemic was something unforeseen altogether, temporary business setbacks are a part of the entrepreneurial life. Setbacks are normal, and while some people may have to face bigger setbacks than others, all of us have had an experience where things have not gone as planned. Unless we are ready to deal with such setbacks, we could end up in grave situations, even beyond business.

The first thing many business owners do when faced with a setback is to blame themselves, and then become despondent. It is extremely difficult for them to resume normal functioning, even when the situation improves. Now, it is all right to feel some negative emotions associated with setbacks, but we need to acknowledge how we feel and plan a recovery. Haste will only worsen the scenario as it will increase the chances of failure.

A good technique that works well in such scenarios is to spend some time helping others. The positivity that we derive in handholding others in reaching their goals also helps us find back the determination of reaching our own. It also gives us the confidence that we are not alone in this situation, and that there will be many who will chip in their efforts to help us out, just like we did with others. At VFS Capital, our team has always been instructed to never miss out on any opportunity to help a business owner in distress.

Even without getting into specific businesses and the relevant points on how they can have an accelerated revival, let us keep in mind that setbacks are, in reality, progress in disguise. Starting from learning how to walk or how to ride a bicycle, we all have learned a lot from our falls. Similarly, the confidence that we acquire in our entrepreneurial journeys is shaped by the challenges that we overcome. All of them seemed pretty dire at the time, but have faded away in due course, leading to successes in our paths.

Though the overarching grimness of the COVID-19 pandemic has weighed us down more than normal setbacks, it is not the setback that should be driving our success or failures. Once back on track, we need to make plans to tackle such setbacks in the future. True learning needs to be devoid of judgement or blame. There are many factors that we cannot control or prevent. But the learnings from setbacks should increase our ability to push through them.

The Entrepreneur is Always a Student, entrepreneur, student, career, classroom, role, job, business, success, reality, employment, interest, process, hurdles, knowledge, achievement, awareness

Entrepreneurship courses have been gaining popularity over the last decade. Students are taking up entrepreneurship as a career course, learning from experts how to become entrepreneurs. I have always wondered whether entrepreneurship can be taught in the isolation of classrooms. Can the challenges that entrepreneurs face be woven into a classroom curriculum?

These courses, however, play an important role: changing a student’s mindset from that of a traditional job applicant to that of a job creator. The well-designed courses also expose the aspirant to the varied functional areas of businesses that a budding entrepreneur must be aware of. An entrepreneur also needs to be groomed in the softer aspects of running a business.

Entrepreneurs have no definite defined role, except for the drive toward business success. This translates into the fact that entrepreneurs have to deal with several self- and socially-induced psychological barriers, which makes it challenging for them to convert their entrepreneurial intentions into a reality. If an entrepreneur lacks the skills to deal with stress, she will avoid risky entrepreneurs, even those which can be managed.

Another aspect that we need to bear in mind is that the popularity of these courses has also increased owing to the fewer employment options available in recent times. This may hint at an organic lack of interest in entrepreneurship activities despite the popularity of such courses. They might be reluctant to dedicate their time and energy to the entrepreneurship programme. They could also lack the background and knowledge of entrepreneurship, which could slow the learning process even if they have high expectations from the course.

Lastly, and the most important part, is to set the expectations that these courses are expected to meet at the very start of the learning process for an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs could face new and unexpected hurdles every day, and they will have to cross these hurdles. The entrepreneur could have to make decisions in areas in which they have no prior knowledge. Any lack of motivation to acquire these new skills, potentially due to a low need for achievement, can be a major hindrance in the journey of an entrepreneur.

Grooming one's self is a lifelong exercise that any entrepreneur should be ready to commit to. However, we also need to bear in mind that not all learning is for execution in work life. Most entrepreneurs will have to elevate their level of awareness so that they can understand and appreciate those who execute and also make informed decisions when required.

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