There are always two sides to every coin. And, the saying holds true for every situation in life as well. When coronavirus spread began and Covid-19 started showing its vast negative impacts across businesses, domains, sectors, et cetera, most of the people were of the opinion that the pandemic will eventually leave us only with negative effects and lessons but it seems as coronavirus spread is gradually dying down and normalcy has been restored in the market, the pandemic has left us with one of the biggest positive things which proved really beneficial for most of the businesses - shift towards e-commerce ecosystem of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).
MSMEs cutting across domains have shown a tremendously positive shift towards the e-commerce ecosystem. It goes without saying that e-commerce was one of the pillars that helped MSMEs sustain and survive the negative winds of the Covid-19 pandemic.
When most of us were locked inside our homes due to the lockdown-related restrictions to curtail the spread of coronavirus, it was e-commerce that came to the rescue of most of the micro, small and medium businesses as the trade houses kept running by shifting businesses online. Stores went online to offer services to their customers and continued to earn at least some amount of money to manage the basic expenses.
Turning Crisis into Opportunity
Many SME business houses which eagerly wanted to make a transition from offline to online trade but kept procrastinating it in the name of some circumstances or the other finally turned this crisis into an opportunity in the view of the pandemic. When coronavirus hit the businesses and thereafter lockdown was imposed, traders and business people were left with no other option but to embrace e-commerce so as to keep the businesses running. With the help of technology and the internet, business houses made a timely entry into the e-commerce ecosystem.
Realizing the Hidden Potential
Once small and medium businesses made a transition from offline to online in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, they realized the immense potential of the entire e-commerce ecosystem. With lesser expenditure, traders saved more money in terms of financial margins due to the lesser number of intermediary channels involved in the entire business process right from step 1 to end delivery. Realizing what all benefits the e-commerce ecosystem has to offer, many businesses which were hesitant or not so willing to embrace online medium are now coming forward to make the 'offline to online' transition.
Government-Backed Promotional Schemes
Keeping in view the immense and multiple benefits of the e-commerce ecosystem for MSMEs, the government too has come forward with a number of schemes to encourage and promote the smooth 'offline to online' transition.
Conclusion: Silver lining
In a nutshell, amid the Covid-19 pandemic, MSMEs have made a very smooth transition towards online from offline. If we compare the pre-Covid-19 era vis-a-vis the post-Covid-19 era, we can confidently say that this offline to online shift i.e. entry into the e-commerce ecosystem by MSMEs is one of the biggest silver linings of the entire coronavirus episode.
In a spirited discussion on AI and the retail industry, Puneet Chandok, President of Microsoft India and South Asia delved deeply into India's role in transforming the world through Artificial Intelligence and technology enablement. He discussed Microsoft's commitment to India, not only in training Indian talent but also in leveraging it.
On Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had praised the Tech Entrepreneurs Association of Mumbai (TEAM) for hosting Mumbai Tech Week and their ongoing involvement in building tech startups in the country. During a panel discussion with Haptik CEO Aakrit Vaish at Mumbai Tech Week, Puneet Chandok, President of Microsoft India and South Asia, emphasized the transformative impact AI could have on various aspects of daily life.
Chandok stated, “When we look at India through the lens of demand, supply, and impact, there is no other market like India today. There are 7,000 listed companies in India and one hundred thousand startups. Many startups are in Maharashtra, and one hundred new startups are emerging in India every day. India is the largest SMB market globally, making it one of the most exciting markets today.”
He further added, “When we look at the supply lens and examine Microsoft's data, one out of four projects on AI in GitHub today is run out of India. Every sixth AI researcher in the world is from India. In the next ten years, 25 percent of the global workforce will come from India, meaning every fourth worker in the world will be from India.”
Discussing the growing influence and power of Artificial Intelligence, Chandok mentioned, “Last night, my 12-year-old daughter was creating text-to-video, and she told me that AI will change her life. She is an artist; she draws and paints. This also indicates how the younger generation perceives AI.”
Expanding on this, Chandok continued, “People will stop searching and instead have conversations. I have stopped searching myself; in fact, I was conversing with my Copilot to understand what is happening at the event and what I should speak about. We have shifted from searching to genuine conversations. This is not just chat drama anymore. These are sophisticated engines providing reasoning within.”
Regarding his personal perspective, Chandok remarked, “People say AI is overhyped, but I think it's not hyped enough. The next generation, which will use this in the next few years, will have much higher expectations of what technology can do for them. So, how you build it for that generation, how you build it for that future, will be really interesting to see."
Chandok also emphasized that those who do not embrace AI, risk falling behind in the rapidly evolving technological landscape. He encouraged Indian developers to seize the "lifetime opportunity" to become unstoppable by learning to use and deploy AI effectively.
He concluded, “If you are not learning AI, you are falling behind. I myself spend 30 minutes a day to learn more about AI. Technology is changing every day, and it has been 15 months since ChatGPT was launched. The speed of technology diffusion is unlike anything I have seen in my life, and it is advancing very rapidly. My call to action for everyone is to find a way to learn, otherwise, we will all fall behind.”
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