Almost a third of small and medium businesses (SMBs) in the UAE launched new products and services during the Covid-19 pandemic, a move that helped them to survive the unprecedented effects of the crisis, according to cyber security firm Kaspersky Labs.
The decision-making process to respond to the health crisis was especially complex, as companies had to consider several external factors, including movement restrictions, a lifestyle adapted to the new normal and sanitary requirements, combined with their business capabilities.
“Although some decisions were hard, they were necessary. Now, it is good to know that the overall feeling about the results of the pandemic is somewhat positive across small companies: 56 per cent agree that their business responded well to the global challenge," said Andrey Dankevich, a senior product marketing manager at Moscow-based Kaspersky.
SMBs are similar in terms of size and characteristics to small and medium enterprises but differ by employment, with the former often relying on part-time workers or outsourced staff and the latter employing full-time workers.
But research has indicated that SMBs in the UAE have dealt well with challenges. A report by payment company Visa showed that nearly 97 per cent of UAE SMBs, compared with the global average of 83 per cent, have adopted new forms of digital payment technology by the end of last year.
The government is also extending support to SMEs. The Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development partnered with UAE telecoms company Etisalat and Microsoft to help Abu Dhabi SMEs fast-track their digital transformation, while Dubai SME, the government agency mandated to develop the sector, supported its members with procurement contracts worth Dh896m in 2020.
The Kaspersky report indicated that the launch of new products and services was an active response from these companies. Almost a fifth of business (18 per cent) entered new sectors. For example, some launched a digital alternative for their physical offerings while restaurants and shops began delivery services to supplement their business.
Almost 58 per cent of those companies polled allowed all or most employees to work remotely amid the pandemic.
But the majority of decisions taken were aimed at optimising expenses, including budget cuts (46 per cent), reduced pay or working hours (42 per cent) and diverted budgets or halting investment plans (38 per cent).
"The lessons learnt should now help them to better prepare for future challenges, improve the current investment plan and processes, try new things boldly, and become more digital. I also believe that the products and services launched in response, will stay relevant because anti-Covid-19 restrictions are still in place and people continue to follow digital habits picked up during the pandemic," Mr Dankevich said.