How to help small businesses

Generational shift plays out in multiple ways. In 2017, Mumbai-based Ajit Singh Ahluwalia, 34, saw it in his father’s eyes.

“Really? You don’t have to pay anything for it and it works?” Ahluwalia senior was in disbelief as he asked his son, the managing director of Surindra Engineering, a Rs 200 crore company which is a 50-year-old family business that makes steel pipes for the oil, gas and water sectors.

The younger Ahluwalia was elaborating to his father about GlobalLinker, a B-to-B global networking and transaction platform, which helps MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises) do business efficiently by creating company websites and digital product catalogues, connecting them with suppliers and customers globally and offering range of services from insurance to logistics.

A shift is happening at MSMEs like Surindra Engineering as they change the way they do business, pushed forward A shift is happening at MSMEs like Surindra Engineering as they change the way they do business, pushed forward by ambition and technology. It has been a harrowing time for the sector that was pummelled by demonetisation and the goods and services tax (GST). But a digital wave and formalisation could see the dismantling of old practices and the emergence of companies that are sturdier and stronger, looking to scale and grow.
 


Sameer Vakil, cofounder of Mumbai-based GlobalLinker, which has 2.7 lakh MSMEs from 150 countries on its platform, says, “MSMEs are fragmented and don’t have economies of scale. Our platform helps aggregate demand and bring scale and efficiencies to a segment that never had it.”

While GlobalLinker is free, it takes a commission on the businesses that companies bag on its site. “On services like insurance & logistics, I found them 5-8% cost effective,” says Ahluwalia. “On product , it takes a commission on the businesses that companies bag on its site. “On services like insurance & logistics, I found them 5-8% cost effective,” says Ahluwalia. “On products, they are even better. The best is that they are a one-stop shop for everything.”

Recently, he became an exclusive distributor in India of a Spanish firm called Cevisa that makes bevelling machines, for which GlobalLinker helped generate 40 overseas inquiries. Ahluwalia wants to move up the value expand geographically and grow Demonetisation and GST hit many hard. But they are bouncing back. We are now seeing many becoming more productive. We, too, have big growth plans,” he says.
 

n the MSME world of gloom and doom today, Ahluwalia’s is a rare story. Even as India Inc hurts, MSMEs — at the bottom of the business pyramid — are the worst-affected. Small, unorganised and under the radar, they are often invisible, but their stress is evident. Demonetisation triggered it. And a slew of NDA government’s formalisation moves, including GST, proved fatal for many.