Small and medium enterprises – known in the popular parlance as SMEs – are very powerful economic drivers in Mauritius. They contribute to both growth and development, therefore playing a crucial role in the construction of a resilient, inclusive and sustainable society. Indeed, they comprise 99% of all enterprises in our country. In 2019, their contribution to Gross Value Added (GVA) amounted to 35.7%. They act as a catalyst for restructuring and diversifying the productive base of our economy, and will be key players in the economic recovery going forward. But paradoxically, they are also the most vulnerable in times of crisis, and many of them are in dire need of financial support to weather the current storm.
Accordingly, as part of our long-lasting engagement to support the Mauritian entrepreneurs, Cim Finance has always been aware of the importance of guiding them towards the right products with a view to helping them adjust to emerging market trends. We knew that they needed an efficient, simple and swift solution when it comes to access to financing and ensuring a healthy cash-flow. With the challenges being posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, it became a necessity to meet the needs of those entrepreneurs with an alternative option to the traditional long online forms, which would at the same time allow our staff to check if eligibility criteria are met.
Building on our digital transformation journey 2 years ago, we were able to quickly respond and with the setting up of a new service; the WhatsApp for SMEs. Launched at the beginning of February 2021, this new service perfectly illustrates Cim’s vision and objectives to unlock the potential and strengthen the resilience of these enterprises, thereby helping them to withstand future shocks. Being an already widely used tool, WhatsApp turns out to be an intuitive means of communication and the fastest automated medium for customers to reach us. Besides, it is a known fact that consumer behaviours have changed over time: they now prefer conversational, instantaneous interactions over one-way, top to bottom communication. WhatsApp for SMEs is in line with our key themes of customer-centricity, simple-focused offering and technological and digital-driven differentiation. The launch of WhatsApp for SMEs is part of our commitment to enhance the customer journey. In addition to being convenient, secure, fast and easy to use, it allows SMEs to apply for remote loans that do not require any guarantee on the assets. Within minutes, entrepreneurs can get a pre-approved amount based on the information they have provided through a series of questions on the activity of their business, income and actual commitments.
Given the current economic environment, financial institutions like Cim Finance have an important duty to fulfill by supporting the business community, especially SMEs. In Mauritius, they account for 99% of all registered companies and employ nearly 50% of the national workforce. According to the Ten-year Master Plan for the SME sector, unveiled in March 2017 by the Ministry of Business, Enterprise and Cooperatives, exports from this sector are expected to increase to around 18% by 2026. Hence, it has become highly important to understand the heavy toll the current crisis is casting on SMEs, in order to ensure that services are appropriately designed to meet their needs. While the pandemic has strongly affected SMEs, leaving them with fewer resources to ride out this storm, now, more than ever, we have to provide them with fast, simple and easily accessible tools to help them ensure business continuity and contribute in a sustainable manner to our long-term economic recovery.
Anielle Jia - Head of SME