Challenging, arduous, exhausting, are some of the words most commonly used to describe entrepreneurship. Despite this, ask any entrepreneur and they will tell you that it is the most rewarding journey they’ve been on. As a woman entrepreneur at the helm of my own company for over a decade, I’ve had countless opportunities and copious amounts of learnings that have shaped me into the person I am today. And one of the most important things that I have come to understand is that it is infinitely harder for women entrepreneurs to thrive in the business world. Conventional attitudes, stereotypes towards women, the invisible yet very present corporate glass ceiling, are just a few of the challenges female business leaders face. The pandemic only exacerbated this issue.
The impact of Covid-19 has been disproportionate and largely negative for women-led businesses. Looking at the financial scenario, 72% women-led enterprises reported cash shortages compared to the 53% of male-led enterprises. They have reported low access to funds, a decline in revenues and disruption of operations.
However, despite these initial challenges brought on by the pandemic, there is wisdom to be sought from Albert Einstein’s famous quote that rightly says, “In the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity.” And since women entrepreneurs have always had to work twice as hard to prove themselves, they continue to seize these opportunities and effectively adapt to newer challenges.
Below are some of the learnings I’ve had during these tumultuous yet rewarding two years.
It is vital to embrace digitalisation:
Even before the pandemic hit, the world was moving towards digitalisation. However, the pandemic further accelerated this movement and pushed small and big firms towards adopting digital technologies. And while this may seem like a gender neutral learning, adopting digital technology is especially important for women who are at the helm of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). Across the world, women play a significant role and contribute to the economy as owners of micro and small businesses. With limited resources, they often struggle to make their businesses profitable and the pandemic only worsened this situation. This is why it is crucial for female business leaders to leverage the power of technology and empower their companies to thrive in a post Covid world. As entrepreneurs reimagine customer strategy, operations and revenue models, digitalisation will serve as the fulcrum that supports this new order.
Adopting a holistic approach is central to post-pandemic recovery
Ensuring continuous business growth through the pandemic has been a challenge. In the PR industry specifically, to meet this challenge, we have been constantly identifying new business opportunities and innovating our business practices. To thrive in the public relations landscape that has moved away from classic media relations, we are now adopting a more holistic approach that includes more elements such as content creation, influencer marketing and reputation and crisis management, along with traditional brand building strategies.
A holistic approach is at the core of business recovery strategy. To build back a business that can sustain economic shocks and global market volatility, recovery strategies should be designed to move beyond just quickly bringing a business back on its feet. They should account for behavioural and investment changes to reduce the likelihood of future shocks and increase an organisation’s resilience when they do occur.
Operating in the new business order requires diversifying teams
A focus on inclusiveness, diversity and wellbeing is central to a holistic business approach. It is important for new-age start-ups to adjust their recruitment strategy to attract diverse applicants. Hiring employees from different genders, age groups and experience levels can invite different perspectives and benefit the business in the long run. As we work towards creating diverse teams, we should not shy away from hiring freshers and college graduates. These young adults are brimming with ideas and they have the confidence to execute them.
Our learnings suggest that diversity and productivity go hand in hand. Research has also found that diversifying teams can boost productivity by 35%. This is because a diverse workforce is likely to understand varying customer needs and come up with ideas to fulfil them.
Lastly, the world has transformed, and its effects are going to permanently alter how we function. We stand to see new consumer preferences, business patterns, operating models and an overall novel way of working. As women entrepreneurs overcome these new obstacles and continue on the path to growth, we need to share resources, advice and expertise, and create a sisterhood of sorts to help each other thrive.
Article is authored by Akshaara Lalwani, Founder, Communicate India.