Mastercard has launched a programme to support five million micro businesses by developing training on how to use digital platforms in business.
The Strive programme will receive an initial $25m investment and work with digital platform suppliers to embed training for small businesses that lack understanding of how to get the most out of platforms such as those offering digital accounting or marketing services.
The use of digital business tools exploded during the Covid-19 pandemic as face-to-face contact was minimised and these tools will now remain. For example, the number of fintech users increased rapidly, as did the promotion of these tools.
Small businesses are well aware of the need to use digital tools, but are less certain how to use them and which ones to use. But as the global economy begins to recover from the disruption caused by Covid, small businesses need to join the digital revolution or they could miss out on the recovery.
Mastercard has partnered with research and advisory firm Caribou Digital to support the Strive programme. Caribou’s founder, Chris Locke, said many small businesses have had to suddenly adopt new ways of doing business without any training.
“Very small businesses had to learn how to digitise very quickly because the way they find customers and market their businesses has gone digital,” Locke told Computer Weekly. “They need to understand how a whole host of digital platforms help their businesses, such as accounting software that helps them run their businesses or a lot of the new marketplaces that help them reach new customers.”
Locke said small businesses are bombarded by adverts for digital tools, but need to understand how they can make such technology work for their business.
The programme will reach small businesses through digital business platforms, through collaboration with the platform suppliers, he said.
“This is not traditional training when you go on a course and come away with a nice certificate,’ said Locke. “This is about doing training in the places where people are running digital businesses. We will be talking to the digital platforms that small businesses use and creating content that they can embed into apps and platforms.”
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In the future, this could include social media platforms, he added. “A big part of running a digital business is how you run a digital profile. People are using these platforms to find customers.”
The five million businesses being targeted with support are very small, often micro businesses with fewer than 10 staff across the world. Locke expects up to one million to be supported in the UK.
“These are people with successful businesses and need to take it to the next level,” he said.
Training content will be developed on a regional basis to ensure it is appropriate.
The initial four-year programme will see Mastercard contribute $25m and targets five million SMEs, but it is hoped this investment and target will increase.
Mastercard CEO Michael Miebach said that when small businesses thrive, local communities and economies thrive, but when they struggle, the impact is widespread. “What small business owners need right now are partners who will listen to them and develop innovative solutions that will help them grow in the wake of the pandemic,” he said.
Rebecca Marmot, chief sustainability officer at Unilever, said small businesses are essential for growth across the economy. “Small businesses are key to Unilever’s growth and need more support than ever.,” she said. “As the world becomes increasingly digital, we have an opportunity to ensure that business owners are part of the transformation.”