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Implementing strategic responses in the COVID-19 market crisis: a study of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in India

Guydeuk Yeon (Department of Economics and Innovation Centre, Christ University, Bangalore, India)
Paul C. Hong (Department of Information Operations and Technology Management, The University of Toledo, Toledo, Ohio, USA)
Elangovan N. (School of Business and Management, Christ University, Bangalore, India)
Divakar G. M. (School of Business and Management, Christ University, Bangalore, India)

Journal of Indian Business Research

ISSN: 1755-4195

Article publication date: 18 January 2022

Issue publication date: 30 June 2022




The COVID-19 pandemic presents unprecedented challenges for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in emerging economies. This paper aims to examine how India's SMEs implement their strategic responses in this crisis.


The study uses dynamic capability theory to explore the strategic responses of SMEs. Strategy implementation theory helps to explain how they implement innovative practices for outcomes. A research model defines the COVID-19 challenges, strategic responses and performance outcomes. The study reports the findings of an initial pilot study of 75 firms and follow-up case study results in the context of COVID-19.


Firms choose their approaches according to their perceived market risks. Case studies illustrate that firms display diverse attitudes depending on their strategic direction, leadership vision and organizational culture. They achieve different outcomes by implementing specific styles of risk management practices (e.g. risk-averting, risk-taking and risk-thriving).

Research limitations/implications

Although the study context is Indian SMEs, the findings suggest meaningful lessons for other emerging economies in similar crisis events. The propositions may be extended to future research in broad contexts.

Practical implications

Even in the extraordinary COVID-19 market crisis, SMEs with limited resources display their strategic potential by recognizing their unique capabilities, translating them into effective actions and achieving desirable outcomes.

Social implications

In the COVID-19 pandemic, top leaders' mental attitude, strategic perspective and routine practices are contagious. Positive leadership motivates both internal and external stakeholders with an enormous level of collaboration.


This rare study of Indian SMEs provides a theoretical framework for designing a pilot survey and conducting a case study of multiple firms. Based on these findings, testable propositions are articulated for future research in diverse organizational and national contexts.



Funding: The authors received no financial support for the research, authorship and/or publication of this article.


Yeon, G., Hong, P.C., N., E. and M., D.G. (2022), "Implementing strategic responses in the COVID-19 market crisis: a study of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in India", Journal of Indian Business Research, Vol. 14 No. 3, pp. 319-338.



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