Authors: Pavrita Solanki and Christina Kappaz
Pavitra Solanki from Accenture works on YBI’s Digital Accelerator programme, as part of YBI’s Accelerating Youth-led Businesses in the Digital Era programme, funded by IKEA Foundation. Pavitra is the Project Delivery Lead at Accenture and is an expert with 10 years of work experience in Consulting across Marketing and Strategy.
Christina Kappaz is YBI’s Director of Strategic Projects and has been overseeing YBI’s digital accelerator programme since it was first piloted in Latin America and the Caribbean in 2018.
But this process is not easy. YBI has therefore developed a number of initiatives, in partnership with Accenture, to support digital adoption. Our work in India and Bangladesh, funded by the Ikea Foundation, is indicative of our approach and provides insights on how to help small businesses embrace digital transformation.
The economic crisis caused by COVID-19 has exposed the digital divide and hit micro, small and medium enterprises particularly hard. There are several barriers to digital adoption, from choosing the right technological solution to the high costs of digital implementation. Small business owners may lack the skills to use technologies appropriately and ensure IT and data security. In more rural areas, connectivity and low smartphone usage are key challenges.
YBI’s Digital Accelerator Programme, implemented in India and Bangladesh with a team from Accenture Development Partnerships, guides local YBI members Bharatiya Yuva Shakti Trust (BYST) and Bangladesh Youth Enterprise Advice and Helpcentre (B’YEAH) to adopt digital solutions to improve the reach and relevance of their services to entrepreneurs, especially those in rural or semi-rural areas.
In addition to the Accelerator, YBI supports the digitisation of its members in other ways, such as delivery of training on digital tools and looking at ways to scale solutions across its network. Taking an example from another region, YBI recently ran an internal innovation crowdsourcing campaign with its African members to identify solutions that can help entrepreneurs during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are now channelling funds to the most voted idea with the aim to scale it across the YBI network once it has been developed.
Some of the recurring themes that have emerged from YBI and Accenture’s work on digital transformation with organisations supporting young entrepreneurs are:
1. Virtual internal operations
It’s no surprise that this is one of the top areas for organisations to focus on and invest in during this pandemic crisis. Setting up smooth internal communication and collaboration systems has always been one of the key factors to working effectively in the digital era. With limited physical space and the closure of offices, factories and meeting areas, implementing useful digital processes is vital.
These are some of the organisational areas where this is key:
2. Virtual training and counselling for digital business skills
A key challenge facing business owners during the current crisis is a lack of resources and access to financial support to continue their operations. Virtual training and counselling can help business owners develop digital skills to stay afloat. Key pain points such as fall in demand, inability to restart operations and reduced sales channels can be addressed through innovative digital solutions.
Some initiatives under these areas are:
3. Networking for entrepreneurs and mentors
Networking has numerous advantages for entrepreneurs. It helps them connect with people in similar situations, learn alternative solutions, share ideas or even find the motivation to continue their business operations. It builds a community of entrepreneurs and mentors that acts as a support system.
Platform-based and social media tools can be used to facilitate networking – particularly during the current crisis when physical meetings are not possible. WhatsApp groups or Facebook meet are an easy way to enable networking online.
4. Mentoring and online support
In the past, young entrepreneurs have benefited from wellbeing support in times of crisis. Motivation is key to success. The role of the mentor becomes critical in these hard times.
Some of the initiatives that can be set up to make mentoring available virtually are:
Our digital transformation work is a key part of our Accenture partnership. The learnings shared here are drawn from a range of initiatives we are currently supporting, including our Accelerating Youth-led Businesses in the Digital Era programme in collaboration with IKEA Foundation.