how can small business stay open?

Jay Wasim, Lecturer in Entrepreneurship & Innovation, Robert Gordon University, Scotland

This article was first published in 2020 in the Entrepreneurial Mindset Network eZINE Volume 3 no 2

Jahangir Wassim is a Lecturer in Entrepreneurship & Innovation at Robert Gordon University in Scotland. He is also the Founder and President of ORIGIN, a charitable organisation improving the provision and accessibility of health and education in rural towns and settlements in Pakistan.  In this article, Jahangir reflects on supporting small businesses to stay open, even when the world is closed…

1 What does your job at the Robert Gordon University involve?

My primary role at RGU is to contribute towards developing scholarship in the field of entrepreneurship and innovation and work on the Aberdeen Business School’s portfolio of entrepreneurship modules. I am currently coordinating several modules e.g. the undergraduate New Business Project  and  Enterprise Creation at the postgraduate level.  I have framed both of these modules around the United Nation’s Sustainability Development Goals.  

2 What were your earliest experiences of entrepreneurship? 

I grew up in Quetta, Pakistan, where during summer holidays I saw the kids in our neighbourhood flying kites.  I bought my own kites and experimented by drawing on them with oil paints.  The other kids really liked them and asked me to paint their names on their kites, which I did for 10 rupees per kite!  A friend told me that I could buy kites for 50% less money from the market rather than the local shop.  I had no idea that I had just become an entrepreneur!

When I was around eight or nine, I was probably one of the first kids to get a personal computer in our whole city. I took a screwdriver and opened the computer piece by piece. I created a system to remember which part goes where.  Long story short, the system didn’t work. However, my parents sent me to a computer academy to learn to reassemble the computer.  Before long, I was making money helping my friends install operating systems and working for a couple of corporate accounts too.

You have recently written a book. What is it about and what inspired you to write it?

I was already writing a book “10 Steps to Start-Up” - it is still not finished yet - and then the Coronavirus crisis happened. I paused on the Start-Up book and wrote another book instead called “10 Steps to Stay Open – Even when the world is closed”.  

The focus of the book is on micro, small and medium-sized business. I wanted to dedicate the book to the independent businesses that are continuing to trade, the companies that have switched production to manufacturing products required in the crisis, and the many other businesses which are inspired by a can-do, resilient attitude.

The book is written to assist businesses that usually have a lot of customer and employee interaction in person, but which cannot do this anymore because of the social distancing. 

I have picked different businesses to represent: service-based business, product-based business and the ones that offer both, a service and a product.


Image credit: Amazon

What are your hopes for the rest of 2020?

2020 is one of the most uncertain and turbulent years for this generation. The economies are going down, businesses are closing, and people’s priorities are being changed as well. 

However, I remember in my last face to face lecture of this year I told my students that every crisis comes with opportunities. If you look at a crisis, it is just a change of certain activities or needs or wants or the delivery of them. 

As I opened my first computer and didn’t know how to put it back, I learned the process. As a result of that, I started making money by fixing other people’s computers. 

When I bought the kites and didn’t know how to fly them, I started painting on them and selling them. 

The problem we have is that we are set in a certain way to look at things.  If we learn to “unlearn” the general norms or perceptions, we can see everything in a new light. 

2020 and 2021 are the years of change. Businesses and people that have dynamic capabilities and agility to change, based on the market needs, will thrive. There will be sectors that will take a major hit, but there will be new sectors that will emerge as a result of it. 

Personally, in addition to my teaching and research, I will be working with companies and advising organisations on the rehabilitation of their business and economy projects.