The SMMEstart service on WhatsApp has been developed by Praekelt.org in partnership with Arifu and Jozihub with funding support from Google.org. It is 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 automated welcome message allows users to get started by replying with any of the words in bold from the menu.
After conducting an in-depth research report on the needs of local micro, small and medium-sized businesses, SMMEstart concluded that most of the businesses surveyed were severely financially impacted by the pandemic.
SMMEstart has provided insight into the critical findings gathered from the survey, according to a press statement,
“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 business strategy and growth.”
The content offered on SMMEstart chat-based service was sourced from the findings gathered from the survey SMMEStart construct and include the following:
- Find and learn how to apply for both government and private sector financial relief resources available as well as accounting guidelines and information to help businesses through Covid-19 and beyond.
- Access free resources to grow your knowledge – including free downloadable books and extensive digital marketing skills training to help businesses grow, despite challenging times.
- Guidance on how to be tax compliant. This is key to accessing SARS Covid-19 relief measures and unlocking new business opportunities.
- Understand and implement marketing that can help businesses survive and thrive through this time.
- 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.
- Access important 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.
- Keeping users up-to-date on Covid-19 news, including steps being taken by the 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 added to the service and frequently updated as more resources are identified and partnerships entered into with other organizations willing to play a role in helping SMMEs through COVID-19 and beyond.
- A sharing function that gives people the ability to easily share the service with other business owners.
SMMEstart said in a press statement that it will add a new feature in the weeks ahead. Titled Talk, the feature will allow users to share their business stories and engage with the SMMEstart helpdesk to ask questions or request additional services, info, or support.