Small businesses are part of every community and very often closely connected to its people and history. Unlike larger corporations, small businesses are usually local, privately owned, and employ a lesser number of workers. They also have lesser incomes since their scope of market is usually much smaller than the large-scale companies and industrial outlets. However, they are intrinsic to the development and growth of a locality and its economy. It creates sources of income, expansion of trade, and employment opportunities. Cottage industries and small-scale home businesses have been very important to the growth of India’s economy for decades. However, with the advent of multi-national corporations, neoliberal policies and privatization of many industries, small businesses have seen a decline in income in recent years. Yet they are still an important part of our economy and our everyday life.
With the internet revolution which has so transformed our life in the 21st century, we rely much on online stores for our daily necessities. We also go to supermarkets with national or international chains to buy our daily products, usually looking at their discounted rates and environment. However, we also need to know that these discounts are only given to us because that cost is extracted from us in other ways, or from their working force who are often forced to work long hours with minimal wages. Now with the novel coronavirus pandemic ravaging the world, we are facing a global economic crisis and a steep increase in unemployment rates. Many multi-national companies are laying off their staff and cutting salaries. This means that many who previously went out to buy their groceries now do it online. This has greatly jeopardized the future of small business in a way that has never happened before.
Supporting small businesses is something that all of us should be engaged in since they support entire families and communities. The various agents who come in between the worker and their salary in larger corporations are usually absent in small business. This means that the worker gains more for his hard work and is more amply rewarded than in corporations that exploit them. Supporting small business help them sustain themselves and the people behind it. Since it is difficult to stay in business with an influx of other larger chains, small businesses are focused on providing authentic and good products to their customers. This is also the reason why many customers remain faithful to these small stores, since they have understood its value and the work behind it. They also employ many creative ways to stay in business and retain customers.
Small businesses differ starkly in their environments from other larger businesses by creating a space of warmth and familiarity. The detachedness of the sterile supermarket white lights and the mechanical ways of engagement are often directly in opposition to the warm glow and friendly chatter that fills small spaces. They are often a meeting point for the people of that locality and their interactions. The owners are often also able to do favours for the customers or offer discounts on the bill which doesn’t commonly happen anywhere else. Local businesses become part of the story of that locality as they themselves are handed down between generations, and are able to give back to the community much better than others. They are not controlled by an algorithm created to maximize profit or a nameless person behind a computer somewhere far away. They are run by people and families we develop bonds with, leaving a human touch in their exchanges. It enriches the life of the individual and their society, becoming a saving grace in a consumeristic culture where profit is made at the expense of humans.