Edited by Malavika Suresh
The global COVID-19 pandemic has been inconvenient at best and devastating at worst for everyone who has had to witness it. Amongst the ones who have taken a serious hit to their daily routine and functioning, have been local businesses.
Local, or small businesses can be defined as locally based entrepreneurs or service providers who aim to serve their communities and source their products and services from the communities around them. Perhaps their definition is better understood when compared against their competitors: chain corporations. These are often large companies with large production scales and a wide reach obtained through their series of outlets. These outlets may sell fast food, clothing, or provide a one-stop shopping experience depending on the brand and provider. Their identifying feature is the scale of their functioning- brands have outlets that share uniform themes and sell similar products across nations.
Chain corporations are one of the main reasons why local businesses have been so direly affected amidst the pandemic. Owing to their smaller reach and scale, local businesses lack the capital to sustain themselves during durations of slow or no business. They rely on daily income to pay their employees and afford their day-to-day functioning costs. The moment their flow of income stops, it becomes difficult for them to stay afloat. During the pandemic as well as before it, the mere reach of large corporations reduced the demand for the services of local businesses. The former can provide products at more affordable rates because of cutting labor costs in the wide-scale production levels. Additionally, their vast expanse and consequential massive consumer base translate to exponential growth in profits and as a result, the corporation. The availability of extra capital makes it easier for them to adapt to changes in the market. Thus, even though a lot of small businesses have been adapting to recent changes in the market, they are unable to fairly compete with their bigger counterparts.
However, none of these issues seems to affect you, as the consumer, explicitly. The reasons why a customer should support local entrepreneurs might become more evident when one thinks about how much a local service gives back to its communities in comparison to large-scale business ventures. Since local businesses are homegrown, they obtain the resources they need to produce and provide locally, as well. They are also more likely to employ people residing in the same community. In the same vein, the proximity to the community they serve also makes them the better customer service providers since their relationship with their consumers is much more personalized, organic, and compassionate. Small businesses often empathize with the problems of their local communities and tend to step in where they can to assist. Moreover, owing to their close relationship with the community around, it’s easier to hold them accountable for their practices than their richer counterparts. Therefore, their employment policies and production also tend to be more ethical. Also, they often have attractive and unique aesthetics in terms of original products, creative packaging, and personalized service methods which make them a pleasant trip.
Their smaller scale also ensures that they have a much smaller carbon footprint as compared to large corporations. As is common knowledge, just 100 companies, which encompass a large percentage of products sold at chain outlets, cause 71% of global emissions, and thus, climate change. As such, it becomes one’s responsibility as a consumer to support products that do not adversely affect the environment.
While it is easy to ask support for your local ventures, it might be a completely new area of action for many. The task is, however, much less daunting than it sounds. It is easy to source the services you require every day locally. It can be as small as switching to a local coffee shop instead of the chain or visiting local restaurants for weekend dinner plans. In India, it’s possible to buy vegetables and cooking supplies from local vendors instead of chain pantries. There are online and local clothing thrift stores that add to the community while being marginally less destructive to the environment than fast fashion. If monetary support is difficult for you, it also helps to make people aware of the presence of these stores so they can avail of them. Local entrepreneurs have adapted to the current circumstances just as well as their competitors and are ready to provide safe and personalized service. All they need is you!