Empathy towards SMEs during COVID-19

Empathy towards SMEs during COVID-19

Owners of small and medium enterprises of Mauritius have faced an unlikely, first lived phenomenon when the pandemic struck our small island on the 18th of March. With our prime minister announcing three cases of COVID-19 in Mauritius and a sanitary lockdown the next day for a period of two weeks, the whole population was completely baffled. Panic driven crowds rushed to supermarkets to fill up their pantry fearing more to die of hunger than of the virus during this lockdown. Supermarket profits went up in a jiffy and shelves had to be replenished repeatedly. These large chains were the winners of this crisis.

But what about the small locally owned businesses?

Thousands of questions rushed in their minds as the countdown to the lockdown started. However, while some SME owners found themselves in a complete dilemma, others took advantage of this situation to adapt to the new normal.

In her interview, Shyama Goohee, owner of Zoey Crochet brings up the hardships followed by the positive changes COVID-19 brought to her business. As she deals in the craft market, S. Goohee had some uncertainties and fears regarding her business. Her crochet business took a halt for around five weeks. Her customers were in panic and refused to shop. This had an impact on her business as her main source of revenue was determined by the sales of her products.

S. Goohee tells us that she had to implement new marketing strategies such as offering payment facilities to regain her customers, and most importantly she had to reassure them of the sanitary measures she is taking. As postage services were unavailable, S.Goohee drew special attention to the positive change hand- delivery brought between her and her customers. She highlights the human interaction she did not have earlier and the difference it made when her customers saw her in person. 

S. Goohee also discusses the sense of empathy she experienced on the business level. Communication with DHL, her shipping and delivery service provider was focused primarily on email exchanges. During the pandemic, S. Goohee tells us communication went beyond emails. As she believes in delivering a high quality product to her customers, she imports yarn, her raw material from Turkey. But, with closed international borders and only two flights per week, she had to persuade DHL officers through phone calls to deliver her yarns as this is her only source of income. This evoked a sense of empathy and she found it priceless.

After the sanitary lockdown, S. Goohee believes that people have regained trust and the future's “looking good”. However, if a second wave of this deadly pandemic strikes our island, she thinks that people will have to adapt to a new way of living and businesses to a new way of marketing. 

While many entrepreneurs faced the stress of work instability during this sanitary lockdown, many others had to close down their businesses for good. After nearly one month that the lockdown has been lifted, small entrepreneurs are trying to rebuild their businesses. It is in times like this that you can be supportive towards our small and medium enterprises and help our economy flourish again.

You can check out Shyama Goohee’s handicrafts on her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/zoeybyshy and help support our local SMEs by buying local.

Author: Yashvinee Bowan
Degree holder in BA Mass Communication at Curtin University