Local merchants, neighborhood kiranas and small enterprises are gradually reopening despite the continued threat from the COVID-19 pandemic. To support businesses that are struggling to stay open and resume operations while grappling with new norms of safety and health protection, Mastercard and CAIT have partnered with Indian NGO ACCESS to launch the Small Business Support Coalition.
The Coalition will work towards educating small merchants and kirana store owners on government approved protocols for improved safety and hygiene, and will also provide them with the necessary tools and services to put them in practice. To mark the launch, the Coalition will distribute 35,000 health protections kits in some of Delhi’s busiest markets including Sadar Bazar, Chandni Chowk and Karol Bagh.
An inaugural health protection kit was also presented to Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister of Health & Family Welfare and Hardeep Singh Puri, Hon’ble Minister of Housing and Urban Affairs attheir office/residence.
Hardeep Singh Puri, Minister of Housing and Urban Affairs said, “At this point of our fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, awareness about adhering to social distancing norms and following safety protocols is crucial to support small businesses. I would like to congratulate both Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) & Mastercard on initiating this project to enable small merchants cope with safety and health norms as they resume business. I also encourage more entities to come forward to support the merchant community as they adapt to the new normal.”
Mastercard is working with ACCESS Development Services to procure health protection kits from women Self Help Groups (SHGs) across rural India. Women across three SHGs in Jaipur and Hamirpur were engaged for the first batch. Each kit includes two face masks, plastic gloves, alcohol hand sanitizer, disinfectant, a spray bottle, and educational material on COVID-19 safety protocols. ACCESS will distribute the kits to merchants.
Through the months of extended lockdown, the merchant community was at the forefront of India’s fight against COVID-19, maintaining a delicate balance between social distancing and their commitment to society. Mastercard’s aim is to enable these merchants with the tools they need to keep their doors open and continue to grow.
Praveen Khandelwal, National Secretary General for CAIT said, “Small merchants have been the hardest hit from the COVID 19 pandemic, and we are determined to help them for what they may need as they emerge on the other side. Reopening of their business has brought them relief and much-needed hope to survive in a post-COVID world. We are inspired to be a part of the Small Business Support Coalition to provide immediate and substantive measures that will help small merchants.”
Vipin Sharma, CEO, ACCESS Development Services said, “The pandemic has resulted in great turbulence, uncertainties and ambiguities as we grapple with an unprecedented situation. In all of this, small businesses, given their vulnerabilities, are the hardest hit. Small businesses contribute about a third of gross domestic product and employ more than 110 million people. As a part of this initiative undertaken by Mastercard, we intend to extend our support to micro-merchants and handhold them to grow and scale. Safety is the fundamental support that small businesses need in order to revive their businesses.”
Porush Singh, Division President, South Asia, Mastercard said, “As the country moves out of an extended lockdown, it is the responsibility of all to ensure support for small businesses who are the foundation of jobs and prosperity for crores of Indians. The Small Business Support Coalition is a vital step towards enabling small merchants and our neighborhood stores to resume operations and stay open for business in the coming months. By joining forces with different stakeholders – members of the industry, government, customers and SME associations – Mastercard believes that this collective work will help our communities to emerge even stronger from this crisis.”
Recently, Mastercard also announced a commitment of Rs 250 crores (US$33 million) to help reboot Indian SMEs and enable business recovery amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The company will roll out multiple initiatives to:
· help small businesses go online bygrowing digital payments awareness and providing low-cost acceptance solutions – online and offline – that are simple, safe and secure;
· drive inclusive growth by enabling small merchants and kirana stores with access to credit, knowledge and tools that will drive operational efficiencies; and
· empower women entrepreneurs by increasing their business acumen.