By Prakash Mallya
There is nothing small about small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) today. Employing around 117 million people, SMBs are at the forefront of driving the economic growth of the nation. However, while there is a bullish sentiment among SMBs, they still have challenges when it comes to accepting and adopting technology into their businesses. The need of the hour is to help SMBs understand what technology can do for them and their businesses, enabling a more receptive and inclusive culture towards these solutions. Further, with India becoming an online tax regime under GST, it is crucial for SMBs to understand and adopt the latest technologies.
Transition to digitisation
In recent years, the SMB landscape in India has undergone a major transformation, and one of the key drivers of that transformation is digitisation. According to a KMPG study, digitally-engaged SMBs have nearly twice the revenue growth trajectory as compared to offline SMBs.
Taking advantage of the rapidly proliferating technology infrastructure, Indian small business owners are forging ahead, designing innovative business models, and exercising the internet ecosystem to reach a wider set of consumers worldwide. The digital economy has leveled the playing fields for SMBs by providing them critical scale.
Artificial Intelligence (AI), IoT and Cloud are the current wave that SMBs are riding on. AI and Machine Learning (ML) is being rapidly adopted by the manufacturing, construction, services and education sectors. IoT is being accepted in industries like healthcare, retail, insurance and fitness where wearable computing is being integrated into their business models. Cloud computing is enabling SMBs to increase their market reach and profitability and improve employee productivity and operational processes.
Keeping up with the latest
Today, some of the largest online retailers and payment solution providers are helping local merchants and small businesses digitally manage invoicing, supply, inventory, together with GST calculations, barcode scanning and card payments through touchscreen point-of-sale machines. Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) in India have worked to make GST software bundled devices available to local businesses/ consumers via online retailers. Most major online retailers now also have SMB focused marketplaces offering access to global markets with GST compliant invoicing.
While SMBs have embarked on a journey of technological transformation, there is a long road ahead. As per the findings of a research powered by Techaisle, commissioned by Microsoft and Intel, 49% of larger SMBs and 31% of small SMBs in India are on PCs that are older than four years despite the cost implications and security risks. On the other hand, SMBs who have already embraced a modern workplace strategy have experienced better productivity, reduced costs, and enhanced security. The report further states that the cost of upkeeping a PC older than four years can be used to purchase at least three new modern PCs. Computers and connectivity have opened the gateway for digitisation and automation of SMBs, increasing returns, scale and output. It is vital for these businesses to invest in upgrading their processing power to support complex tasks and enable expansion. The need of the hour is for industry stakeholders, government policy makers and enterprises to work together to enable the digital empowerment of SMBs. As more SMBs adopt newer technologies it will significantly improve their ability to innovate and achieve higher productivity.
(The writer is VP & MD, Sales and Marketing group, Intel India. Views are personal)