How professional networking platforms can be a boon for micro-entrepreneurs and MSMEs
Those who build startups are lone warriors, ready to tackle any crisis. Networking platforms help these first-time entrepreneurs gain insight, wisdom and mentorship when they need it the most.
The past decade has seen a wave of disruptive entrepreneurship across sectors, thanks to factors like technology enhancements, pro-SME/MSME government policies, open international trade opportunities, and focus on skill development and vocational training.
According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) India Report 2016-17, prepared by Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India (EDI) and its associates, 11 percent of India’s adult population is engaged in “total early-stage entrepreneurial activity (TEA),” which makes them first-generation business entrepreneurs.
India’s startup ecosystem is one of the fastest growing in the world, with over 190 deals worth $ 4 billion closed in just Q1 of 2019.
However, despite the buzz and the glamorous funding opportunities, the ground realities in the sector can be quite disturbing. Especially for first-generation micro-entrepreneurs starting out with small businesses with out-of-pocket funding.
Being a first-generation entrepreneur or a startup founder can be a lonely journey, with various roles to juggle single-handedly. This often also leads to overwhelming pressure to execute and micro-manage the business, which ultimately makes the entrepreneur lose track of larger goals and growth opportunities.
Cash flow constraints and challenges with scalability, managing customer relationships and satisfaction, internal difficulties in hiring and retaining talent, competing in an almost global market, legalities and accounts, self-doubt, long-term business planning, strategy and overall business positioning and goal-setting – all these extremely vital factors that need to be addressed for a business to be successful.
Despite a theoretically brilliant business plan, and the right mix of service and solution, most small entrepreneurs and startups have difficulty holding on to the market, and eventually fail.
As if in response to the above challenges, professional networking platforms have seen a steady rise in popularity, as they offer a supportive environment for mutual growth of entrepreneurs. While these networking platforms are primarily looked upon as “new business” opportunity platforms, professional networking has evolved to go beyond leads and referral domains.
These platforms offer entrepreneurs, startups and SME/MSME businesses a common ground to interact, learn, collaborate and grow. Apart from fellow entrepreneurs, the platforms also offer mentorship and business guidance from people in the form of success stories, case studies and learnings, which is readily shared with the group.
There are five ways networking platforms double up as strong mentoring sources:
Exchange of challenges and learnings
Networking platforms offer a supportive environment to entrepreneurs to discuss challenges faced or share learnings from recent setbacks. These exchanges help create a sense of positivity and hope once they realise that challenges are common and can be overcome, instead of being overwhelmed by trying to solve it alone.
Being a group platform, the access to different points of view and recommended solutions to problems often comes from outside the sector or industry, and can be enlightening and innovative.
Apart from being a platform to voice out, and exchange information, networking platforms also offer access to a vast network of reputed experts, and people who can directly help in not just problem solving or getting new business but also helps in consulting on diverse factors of the business.
Industry insights and best practices
Apart from focusing on new businesses and solving challenges, networking platforms also offer insightful analysis of industry and economy developments, impact of governance policies and recommendations on best practices which can help an entrepreneur to tide over rough weather by leveraging group intelligence.
With a vivid mix of businesses at different levels of evolution, most members within the networking platform often create a collaborative ecosystem that helps smaller businesses and micro-entrepreneurs to scale, access larger projects, and expand service offerings. Collaboration also ensures there is an exchange of skills and a greater support network, outside of the individual business domain.
We have all heard and read inspiring stories of great business leaders who owe it all to their suite of advisors and mentors. It is also a proven fact that companies with founders who are mentored by other successful entrepreneurs are three times more likely to become successful entrepreneurs themselves. However, to be a successful entrepreneur, one need not necessarily be mentored under a world-class mentor or guru.
Access to the right information and a close-knit support system of fellow entrepreneurs whom one can trust can work wonders at multiple levels. Opportunity to forge lifelong professional friendships, gaining trusted new business referrals and accessing seasoned mentors, networking, etc, when done right can be a vital force in the evolution of a business and the businessman.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)
(Edited by Suruchi Kapur)