Good time for small businesses to go digital: says entrepreneur
March 25 2020 01:56 AM
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Businesses in Qatar, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), should consider digitalising their operations to make the most of the changing dynamics that resulted from countrywide measures aimed at preventing the spread of Covid-19, an official of a Qatar-based startup has said.
Only recently, the Qatari government imposed a ban on all forms of gatherings at places, including the Corniche, public parks and beaches, as well as social gatherings, as part of an ongoing campaign against the spread of the coronavirus infection amongst residents in the country.
Similarly, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry issued a circular ordering the closure of retail outlets inside large malls and shopping centres. However, those allowed to continue operations are pharmacies and medical centres, restaurants and cafes (delivery and take away only), and food supply stores (hypermarkets, supermarkets, sweet, and ice cream shops).
But the Ministry clarified that the closure decision “doesn’t include shops outside malls, such as commercial streets across the country, for example, Al Furjan Markets and Souq Waqif, among others.” 
The Ministry added: “All other outlets, such as bank branches, women’s and men’s accessory shops, and perfume stores, among others, shall be closed.”
“The current situation is forcing some businesses to move online to keep up with existing customers. But while this seems easy for some people, it also makes it difficult and challenging to others,” Qatar-based entrepreneur Mufeed Ahmed told Gulf Times.
“In terms of on-demand services, there are around five to six delivery startups available in the market today, which helps businesses to deliver their product to consumers. So technology enabled businesses can use these pick and drop services to fulfil the delivery of their items,” said Ahmed, who is also co-founder of Qubicle and Washnow.
According to Ahmed, the digitalisation of an SME would be beneficial considering that Qatar has the infrastructure and the technology “that is easy for small companies to utilise.” Having an online presence is an advantage because these businesses will not lose customers, especially during this period, he continued.
“If you look at the malls, a lot of retailers have closed their shops except for those in the F&B and pharmacy business, among others. Unlike small and local brands, many large and well-known brands already have an online following, so these small businesses are forced to move online just to keep up with their customer base,” Ahmed explained.
He added: “Everyone should take this opportunity. It’s a good opportunity for traditional businesses to explore other platforms to maintain their businesses, keep existing customers, and expand to a new customer base.
“Qatar has a reliable delivery mechanism with several delivery companies operating in the market. And only recently, many companies have been urging the public to make the most of their online platforms to make payments, reimbursements, and other services, so traditional businesses must study and adjust to the current situation to identify and address the needs of their customers.”



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