Micro and Small enterprises (MSEs)

Micro and Small enterprises (MSEs): Digital platforms have increased sales and transaction volumes for the MSEs, they do this by exposing them to a wider pool of people. For those who rely on social media channels, referral from family and friends helps the business reach more people. Studies show that over time, there has been a rise of homegrown creative infrastructure which merges social media channels, delivery and logistics and customer service. Some worry about the collapse of online platforms  while others struggle to look professional and credible on these online channels. The struggle to look credible while still remaining professional was evident from the studies with many social media sellers creating personal and business accounts to create a balance between work and life. Online platforms have opened market access, encouraged adoption of technology and even encouraged business owners to offer delivery services to their clients. It was clear from the studies that the most literate once win and that besides the earnings, there is an increase in self fulfilment by being a business owner.

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Platforms are key to opening up MSEs to a larger pool of people, thereby increasing their transaction volumes. This encourages an increase in tech adoption both on digital platforms and social media networks. Online commerce on the Facebook platform, shop experience, delivery and logistic experience and shoppers experience shows how they are assembling an online infrastructure—“creative infrastructure action which is homegrown” (Jack, Chen, and Jackson 2017). 

Although there is a big pool of people, merchants complain of unstable income.

In opening an online store, sometimes we need to rely on luck. Although I earned approximately 10,000 yuan (€1,324) last month, our income is not stable at all. The profit I received in several months was just enough for pocket money (Chen et al. 2020, 8).

Some worry about the effect of the collapse of the platforms, such as “about Jumia collapsing” (Chen et al. 2020, 8).

Selling on social media pages, listing on e-commerce platforms, or opening up individual websites are ways SMEs are using to grow their businesses. From the research, it is clear that each of these approaches requires a different work process. Some struggle to look professional; for example a small Mozambique local provider struggles in competing with international firms (Kabanda and Matsinhe 2019).

When selling on social media platforms, referrals from family and friends help the business to reach more people.

No matter how close you are with someone on WeChat, it would still be better if you had physically met this person. I’m not saying that my parents are very good friends with these potential customers, but they have met each other. They know where you are, what you are doing. That’s enough. It’s better than any other promotions on WeChat (Zhao 2020). 

Businesses would diversify their outreach for marketing—84% of SME partners joined Gojek to amplify their business marketing. Through the platform partnership, they can increase their transaction volumes and get more revenue. Moreover, 82% of SME partners experienced an increase in transaction volume after partnering with Gojek, 85% of which experienced more than 5% increase in transaction volume, and 43% SME partners experienced an increase in revenue classification (Wisana et al. 2017). In conversations with Kenyan MSEs (Partnership for Finance in a Digital Africa 2019) social media channels were found to be used widely, often instead of formal E-commerce platforms.

When selling on social channels, one has to tactically curate their profiles, consistently share and sell a lifestyle that acts as a way to maintain credibility with their clients,

Most customers, when they first add you on WeChat, they won’t talk to you. They will first go to your Moments page and read what you have posted. Then they will set up the relationship of trust by themselves. If they already see you posting photos of your life in Australia, 80 percent will trust you already before talking to you […] My idea is that you don’t sell a product; you sell the lifestyle of Australia. They will think, if you post something every day . . . okay, I’m having brunch. I’m having an afternoon tea with my friends, which Chinese people normally don’t do. They [Australians] will just eat barbecue on the street, something like that. . . . And then your posting is like, every Aussie is wearing this Pandora. So Chinese people might think, I don’t need this product, but this kind of lifestyle makes myself feel really cool (Wisana et al. 2017). 

This details a form of unpaid work that MSEs have to engage in with the hope that this will lead to more business in the future. There is a thin line between their business and their private lives, which has to be balanced keenly to achieve a win-win situation. They share personal information to enhance their influence upon their customers while being keen to not expose too much of themselves. Having separate accounts for business and private life has been a great balance as it ensures distinct online personas catered to different audience groups.

This makes the daigou-ers contractors who are technically subject to the requests and orders of clients. That said, they have demonstrated abilities to maneuver around, or even invert such a relationship by exerting influence on their clients. Chinese student daigou-ers’ relationships with buyers in China are not purely commercial and contractual. They have endeavored to persuade customers to treat them as personal connections who are trustworthy, and whose opinions are reliable.

Over time, SMEs have assembled an online infrastructure that fits the local setting.

Though online platforms expose businesses to a wider clientele, the income is unstable. 

In opening an online store, sometimes we need to rely on luck. Although I earned approximately 10,000 yuan (€1,324) last month, our income is not stable at all. The profit I received in several months was just enough for pocket money (Chen et al. 2020, 8).

Some have worries about the platforms collapsing and view social platforms and E-commerce platforms in different light. They find social commerce safer than E-commerce sites. One business person admitted worrying “about Jumia collapsing” (Chen et al. 2020, 8).

One study from Cambodia (Jack, Chen, and Jackson 2017), illustrated how shoppers who speak global languages like English and Chinese, and have access to international markets have an advantage in online selling over other shoppers. Those who speak, write, and read English at a higher level navigate the Facebook platform with more ease and less difficulty communicating in the English-Khmer mix that often populates the Facebook selling pages. Educational background and vast business experience of SMEs are factors that influenced transition to interactive maturity of the tools. The findings show that SME owners/managers who moved beyond interactive to transactive stage were in the process of or had embarked on higher levels of education, or were international interns.

MSEs have come up with strategies to cope with competition and socio-cultural practices by coming together. In other words, they engaged in a cultural practice of sharing business information and advice (SME_A,C,D) among themselves and with their foreign networks who provide technical assistance. Secondly, SMMEs that did not have a physical store, like SME_A and SME_B, developed partnerships with local SMMEs that had physical stores to address the socializing effect expected from consumers. 

Engagement in entrepreneurship led to a fundamental change in familial relationships. “Now they are supportive, and they allow me to travel alone and sometimes ironically when my sister wants to travel they say, ‘Okay, you are going with her!’ so I’m the guardian now!” (McAdam, Crowley, and Harrison 2020). Despite the significance of financial success, the real benefit of entrepreneurship appeared to be the self-fulfillment as a result of creating a business. One businessperson posited:

I am not driven because I want to make money. That’s not why I wake up in the morning. That’s not what drives me. I have the satisfaction when you build up something from nothing, when you achieve your own goal. That is my driver. (McAdam, Crowley, and Harrison 2020)


Chen, Bin, Tao Liu, Lin Guo, and Zhenglin Xie. 2020. “The Disembedded Digital Economy: Social Protection for New Economy Employment in China.” Social Policy & Administration n/a (n/a). https://doi.org/10.1111/spol.12603.

Jack, Margaret, Jay Chen, and Steven J. Jackson. 2017. “Infrastructure as Creative Action: Online Buying, Selling, and Delivery in Phnom Penh.” In Proceedings of the 2017 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, 6511–6522. CHI ’17. Denver, Colorado, USA: Association for Computing Machinery. https://doi.org/10.1145/3025453.3025889.

Kabanda, Salah, and Fernanda Matsinhe. 2019. “Contextualist Inquiry into E-Commerce Institutionalization in Developing Countries: The Case of Mozambican Women-Led SMMEs.” Interdisciplinary Journal of Information, Knowledge and Management 14 (January): 325–42. https://go.gale.com/ps/i.do?p=AONE&sw=w&issn=15551229&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA616904581&sid=googleScholar&linkaccess=abs.

McAdam, Maura, Caren Crowley, and Richard T. Harrison. 2020. “Digital Girl: Cyberfeminism and the Emancipatory Potential of Digital Entrepreneurship in Emerging Economies.” Small Business Economics 55 (2): 349–62. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11187-019-00301-2.

Partnership for Finance in a Digital Africa. 2019. “Micro-Entrepeneurs in a Platform Era.” Farnham, Surrey, UK. https://www.financedigitalafrica.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/FiDA-Micro-entrepreneurs-in-a-platform-era.pdf.

Wisana, Dewa, Inaya Rakhmani, Alfindra Primaldhi, Primaldhi Walandouw, Aditya Nugroho, and Turro Wongkaren. 2017. “GO-JEK Impact towards Indonesian Economy.” Jakarta. GO-JEK-Impact-towards-Indonesian-Economy.pdf.

Zhao, Xinyu. 2020. “Digital Labour in Transnational Mobility: Chinese International Students’ Online Boundary Work in Daigou.” New Media & Society, June. https://doi.org/10.1177/1461444820934096.