Prepared for any eventuality: transforming business as usual to a COVID-19 reality

Sidhartha Sharma, The Chocolate Room – India

Article | 08 October 2020
Sidhartha is a 30-year-old entrepreneur from Jalandhar, Punjab, and opening a chocolate room-bistro cum café was his dream. Sidhartha’s idea was to create a comfortable environment for his customers. After starting the business, Sidhartha faced many challenges to keep the café afloat, such as the brand positioning in the market, labour sustainability, high fixed rental costs, among others.

In 2020 a joint initiative between MSME-Technology Development Centre and ILO’s SIYB programme was designed to help existing and potential entrepreneurs in starting or improving their enterprises. Sidhartha found out about the training in the University where he was working.

The Improve Your Business training helped him to identify market needs and how effectively he could have his share in it. According to Sidhartha, opening a cafe is easy but with the passage of time, running it is an uphill task if you fail to identify the expectations of the customers. For example, at first Sidhartha thought customers loved to hear English songs, but later he found out that many costumers would return more frequently if he switched to old Hindi remix. According to Sidhartha, he was able to apply key concepts such as branding, positioning, targeting and segmentation in a more effective manner after attending the SIYB Programme. Currently, his business was able to expand and 15 employees are working in the café.

The training had prepared him for any eventuality, and in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, he opened a new business. The support of the SIYB Trainer was key in this process, and Sidhartha soon started an online business called “Cake Art”- creative and personalised cakes with free delivery. He was positively surprised by the high demand, and could run the business without incurring much fixed cost.

SIYB motivated me to be an entrepreneur rather a businessman with small vision. If before the main focus was to simply earn money, SIYB changed all the gears of my mind. My focus shifted to the operation processes rather than the final output. I was able to visualise the process in more efficient manner.

I have learnt many concepts related to finance, marketing, HR and operations but the best part of the SIYB programme is to explore the real purpose of entrepreneurship which changed my attitude towards myself and the market."