Aayush Parikh on launching a website to save local businesses

Matter + Form

On an average day, a peek into your wallet might reveal receipts from your favorite places - a bakery where the cookies are always gooey in the middle, a restaurant where the ghee roast reminds you of home, or a coffee shop hidden in a leafy by-lane.

For these small businesses, a loyalty program cultivates a thriving network of ambassadors who will sing their praises to family and friends. With the coronavirus pandemic impacting companies across the world, a set of concerned tech employees decided to partner with that network to make sure local brands don't go under. They launched a website called Save Local that puts community at the heart of their drive to make sure small businesses survive the economic downturn.

We caught up with Aayush Parikh, who heads Growth & Business Development at Hashtag Loyalty, the company behind the campaign:

What defines a local business, are there any criteria?

From your mom-and-pop general store to your go-to fine dining restaurant, all are included. We can only hope every business owner from the hospitality and retail industries signs up on www.savelocal.in, it's free-of-charge.

How does Save Local connect with everything that Hashtag Loyalty stands for?

At Hashtag Loyalty, we use technology to help business owners build strong, long-lasting and meaningful relationships with their customers.

So firstly, this crisis endangered the well-being of our own customers - hospitality and retail business owners. Given our connection to them, we wanted to ensure that we did everything we could to support them and their community. Secondly, we wanted to enable our customers - the business owners - to leverage the relationships they’ve built with their customers using Hashtag Loyalty, to gather the support they need to keep things running during the crisis.

We’ve said time and again, loyal customers are crucial to daily business but when it comes to a crisis - they prove crucial for survival.

Who came up with the idea, and how was it embraced at your office? How quickly did it move from the idea stage to launch?

Since the crisis hit, we’ve been actively exploring ways to help our customers. We’d already prepared and distributed customer engagement guides and resources to help our merchants tackle the crisis and also make the most of it. Save Local came up in one of our brainstorming sessions, and we all agreed that it was the way to go. That's why we could go from ideation to product in three days.

The team responsible for putting together Save Local in record time | Hashtag Loyalty, 2020

Why is it important that customers do their part to save their favorites?

A crisis is undeniably a tumultuous time, but it also presents us with the opportunity to bring out the best in us. With no government stimulus offered or other measures announced so far, we - the loyal customers - are the only hope for these small businesses. Every purchase made is a guarantee of future visits and a gesture of care and shared passion for the people behind the businesses we love. It’s not charity, it's customer loyalty.

What happens if the effects of Covid-19 continue and businesses need to stay shut for several months?

Unlike large enterprises, it is a matter of survival for small companies. The retail and hospitality industry work on paper thin margins to begin with and need the cash-flow to keep running. If this persists, without any revenue, it might mean a complete shutdown for their brand.

In India, the hospitality industry alone hires 7.3M employees and almost 25% of them could end up losing their jobs if this continues for a longer time. Hence, we’re doing everything we can with Save Local.

What has the response been since the project launched?

We’ve managed to list 200 brands across 11 cities in less than a week, and we are looking to reach even more businesses that are in trouble. One particular brand raised Rs. 10,000 in the first 24 hours. We’re now hoping that more customers get on board and commit to their favorite companies, in any way they can.

You can contribute to helping local businesses by visiting www.savelocal.in

Images by Hashtag Loyalty.

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