The Digital SME
If you’ve been reading the papers over the last year, you must have come across the words ‘digital’ and ‘SME’ on almost a daily basis. From the the ‘Digital India’ initiative by the government to cut red-tape, bureaucracy and dare I say even corruption, to the KPMG-Snapdeal report on how going digital (or selling online) has helped SMEs increase their turnover and profitability, there’s a lot of excitement in India about SMEs going digital.
Over the past few months I’ve been asking myself a couple of questions:
- Do SMEs really understand what “going digital” means?
- Do SMEs know what are the benefits of going digital?
Going Digital: What does this really mean?
Depending on which report you read, SMEs can sell products online for prices between ₹1500- ₹3000. So does this mean the SME has now gone digital? I think not. This just means the SME now sells its products online and therefore has a greater reach, which to be honest is a great achievement in itself, but the SME still has to adopt technology internally for it to go truly digital. A modern digital SME is powered by solutions that are spread across multiple functions: From Customer Acquisition to Risk Management to Operational Efficiency to Enabling/Empowering Workforce. Adopting new age technological solutions internally will allow an SME to achieve scale and more importantly operational efficiency at a lower cost. Some of the largest start-ups have managed to scale globally because they have successfully done this. Firms like Practo, AirBnB and Uber for example, have successfully incorporated technology in their internal processes which has allowed them to grow globally at a rapid pace.
The rapid growth of technology has given SMEs:
- Access to Enabling Infrastructure through increasing device penetration and an enhancement in internet connectivity.
- Availability of economically feasible enterprise solutions and services along with a thriving mobile applications (apps) ecosystem.
- Customers who have adopted technology and ecosystems that are allowing this adoption through key initiatives.
Going Digital: Key Benefits
4 areas are likely to be directly benefited if SMEs adopt technology:
A) Customer Acquisition
Technology can be leveraged to access clients in distant geographies and create a greater visibility among target segments. Personalisation in engagement and customer relationships, for both new and existing clients, can be managed in a more efficient manner. The immense data that is captured using technology will allow SMEs to develop customer intelligence which will then allow them to optimize sales and engage with various ecosystems to open new sales channels.
B) Operational Efficiency
Automation and streamlining of core processes will allow the SME to become more efficient, reduce wastage and utilize resources in an optimal manner. This will allow them to enhance the customer experience and optimize their supply chain management through better visibility and control over logistics. With efficient processes in place, SMEs will be able to choose suitable potential partnerships that will fit their internal processes and not cause any disruption,
C) Workforce Enablement
Technology can go a long way in identifying workforce shortfall and identifying key areas of skill development needed within the organisation. A number of digital tools are now available for employees to collaborate and for the SME to monitor employee productivity. Web based solutions for skill development and training for employees will help the SME ensure that employees are empowered with new tools and concepts on a regular basis
D) Risk Management
With use of technology comes the responsibility to protect the information the firm has gathered. Data Security becomes paramount for customer/employee data as well as the company’s financial information. Digital solutions for preventing such leaks would strengthen the organisation. Technology can also be used to safeguard and monitor physical assets through the use of surveillance, asset control and tracking solutions.
There has never been a better time for SMEs in India to “go digital” and leverage technology to incorporate financially feasible solutions.
|Akshay joined Capital Float after completing MBA from Judge Business School, University of Cambridge. Following 6 years with Deutsche Bank across various functions and geographies, he opened a French Italian bistro in India. At Deutsche Bank, Akshay worked across risk management, structuring derivative products, trading Indian government bonds and structuring and executing assets financing trades.
Akshay manages Capital Markets at Capital Float.