Digital Transformation—Pathway to Small Business Recovery and Success

A combination photo of small business owners at work.
As a consumer shift to digital becomes the norm, the small and micro business community needs support transforming their businesses to digital. Photo credit: Courtesy of Visa

This story is published in collaboration with Visa.

Small and micro businesses (SMBs) account for more than 90% of global businesses, more than half of global employment, and contribute more than 60% of the gross domestic product of developing nations. Yet 2020 was a challenging year for many. Consumers adapted their spending habits quickly in order to respond to shutdowns and that meant going digital. And SMBs that did not accept digital or online payments were faced with the need to adapt quickly to keep their businesses afloat. Now, as a consumer shift to digital becomes the norm, the SMB community needs support transforming their businesses to digital, ultimately improving their economic livelihoods and creating a ripple effect throughout their communities.

Enter Practical Business Skills (PBS), a global online platform delivering free education resources to help SMB owners make confident, informed decisions to grow their businesses. PBS helps to support the digital transformation of businesses and several Visa partners are rebranding it to support their business strategies. It is currently available in Arabic, English, French, and Spanish.

Visa’s Senior Vice-President of Social Impact Beth Hurvitz recently spoke with two fintech partners, Pratyush Prasanna, head of payment at Gojek, a leading tech company serving users across Southeast Asia, and Josh Bowen, chief operating officer at Simba, a US-based mobile banking and international money transfers app, about how they are using PBS to advance their social impact and help their customers get back to business and thrive in a post-pandemic world.

Hurvitz: How does the Gojek platform support micro, small and medium-sized businesses (MSMEs) looking to go digital?

Prasanna: The COVID-19 [coronavirus disease] pandemic has created a shift in customer behavior and in order for businesses to survive they must have a presence online. Gojek provides comprehensive tools for merchants of all business types and sizes to grow their business through a digital transformation that is rooted in every aspect of their business, from discovery to implementing effective business operations to payment management, and financial education.

Hurvitz: An estimated 10 million–12 million Americans are “unbanked” and among this group the percentage of immigrants is the highest. How is Simba closing the gap?

Bowen: There are more than 50 million first-generation immigrants living in the US, earning a total of $1.5 trillion and saving $400 billion. They create 25% of new small businesses and lead 40% of Fortune 500 businesses. Despite this, immigrants are often overlooked and misunderstood by traditional banks.

Simba is a platform of financial services to support immigrants on their journey to pursue prosperity. Today, we are starting with a digital bank, money transfers, and financial education. This includes no-fee banking and free international money transfers.

Hurvitz: How has your dual-branded PBS site supported your business and community?

Bowen: We all know that financial services and products alone are not enough to empower people to become financially healthy. Simba is coupling our financial education tools and Practical Business Skills to offer a platform to our customers for growing their financial and business management skills.

Prasanna: “UMKM Bisa!,” the result of Gojek and Visa’s collaboration, empowers our MSME merchants to grow their business with a set of business insights in the form of interactive videos, infographics, and e-learning modules. The digital format enabled us to reach more merchants—900,000 merchants within 4 weeks, which is impossible to replicate in offline training. Not just scale, but e-learning also allowed our merchants to learn at their own pace.

Hurvitz: The “digital divide” keeps millions from accessing services that can elevate their economic potential. How is Gojek poised to support the recovery and grow the global potential of small business?

Prasanna: The pandemic accelerated consumer behavior toward digital and fintech solutions. Today, one of our challenges is to support MSMEs as they transform from their traditional reliance on cash to successfully digitizing their business. The “stay at home” economy means almost all transactions of goods are coming from online channels but at the same time only 16% of MSMEs conduct their business through an online platform. The gap is huge and MSMEs need to go online with their business to not only survive but also thrive.

The challenge is to not only bring their business to online channels but also to adopt technology solutions to transform all aspects of their business to digital, starting from operational, marketing, logistics, inventory management, etc.

Hurvitz: Where do you see your business in 5–10 years?

Bowen: We're eager to continue to build an extensive set of immigrant-focused products and expand beyond banking to insurance, wealth management, etc. We imagine Simba will be embedded into thriving immigrant communities, and involved along all aspect of the immigrant journey, from saving up for the big move, to welcoming them to America, to building credit, to saving for their kids' college, to sending money home, and growing their wealth. Our goal is to be responsive to the needs of the communities and grow in the ways in which we can best provide what is needed for them to flourish.

Prasanna: Gojek will continue to evolve to solve life’s daily frictions for all its users and today we provide multi-services (super app) for three important segments: consumers, driver partners, and merchant partners.

We also think the experience of super apps will be much more bespoke for merchants and consumers alike. Our mission is to become the technology ecosystem that offers solutions to increase people’s productivity and help them to focus on what matters. We believe that with continuous technological innovations, coupled with the right resources, there is always a way to solve everyday problems and affect positive social impact.

This story was first published by Visa on 8 June 2021.