A chat-based service called SMMEstart has been launched on WhatsApp to provide SMMEs in South Africa with instantly actionable information, guidance and resources to help business owners restart and grow their businesses during the Covid-19 economic recovery period and beyond.
The SMMEstart service on WhatsApp has been developed by Praekelt.org in partnership with Arifu and Jozihub with funding support from Google.org.
Designed around an easy-to-navigate menu, SMMEstart is a service that is activated by simply texting the word ‘hi’ in a WhatsApp message to +27 60 011 0110 to get started (or click this link)
The resources included have been developed based on the results of research that was conducted into the needs of micro, small and medium-sized business in South Africa - especially needs brought on by Covid-19.
Among other insights, the needs assessment research confirmed that most businesses in the study experienced severe financial impact from Covid-19. Most respondents indicated that Covid-19 illuminated a need for business skills, predominantly skills relating to implementing sustainable, online business opportunities and digital marketing.
Respondents also indicated difficulty in understanding or accessing relief opportunities and found that they were not properly compliant in order to access or apply for the relief offered. The respondents further indicated a need for assistance in navigating legal matters as well as with their future business strategy and growth.
Because SMMEstart is a live service, functionality, content and additional resources will be added over time, especially as needs change or new needs are identified.
Importantly for businesses (where time really is money), the actionable information, guidance and resources on SMMEstart are easy to access and conveniently available 24hrs a day on your mobile phone.
At launch, SMMEstart enables micro, small and medium-sized businesses to make use of the following information and resources:
- Financial - Find and learn how to apply for both government and private sector financial relief resources as well as accounting guidelines and information to help businesses through Covid-19 and beyond.
- Grow - Access free resources to grow your knowledge – including free downloadable books and extensive digital marketing skills training to help businesses grow, despite challenging times.
- Tax - Guidance on how to be tax compliant. This is key to accessing Sars Covid-19 relief measures and unlocking new business opportunities.
- Marketing - Understand and implement marketing that can help businesses survive and thrive through this time.
- Legal - Guidance on the new legal dimensions that Covid-19 has brought about to the way businesses operate – as well as other important legal obligations pertaining to micro, small and medium-sized businesses.
- Health - Access pertinent Covid-19 information. How best to take care of one’s health and the health of your employees – from keeping healthy during Covid-19 to stress reduction and other areas that contribute to the ongoing success of SMMEs.
- News - Keeping up-to-date on Covid-19 news, including steps being taken by government for business relief and current regulations around reducing the pandemic, as well as news of interest to SMMEs.
- Free - Resources that SMMEstart is sourcing to help businesses recover and grow. These will be frequently updated as free resources are identified and partnerships entered into with other organisations willing to play a role in helping SMMEs through Covid-19 and beyond.
- Share - gives people the ability to easily share the service with other business
Rounding off the offerings on SMMEstart is Talk, which will be added in the coming weeks and will give users the opportunity to share their stories and also engage with the SMMEstart helpdesk to ask questions or request additional services, information or support.
Business owners are also encouraged to register on the service in order to receive updates and provide valuable feedback on the service.
SMMEstart is built on the sustained and wide-ranging global success of HealthAlert which was developed by Praekelt.org using Turn.io for The National Department of Health to disseminate accurate, timeous information on Covid-19 to the public via WhatsApp.