India’s Small and Medium Businesses (SMB) have been adversely hit by the pandemic. However, aggressive digital transformations pursued by such enterprises has enabled them to rebound from the impact. Accordingly, technology is being considered as a crucial investment, rather than an expense for SMBs and, if properly executed, their digitalization could add over USD 200 bn to India’s GDP by 2024.
To identify the challenges that SMBs face and uncover technology can help them address key issues, while future proofing such businesses in the new normal, where physical and digital coexist seamless, Salesforce and CNBC TV18 hosted a webinar themed ‘The Future is Now’.
The panel, comprising Sanket Atal, SVP & MD – Sites, Salesforce India; Rajesh Magow, Co-founder & Group CEO, MakeMyTrip and Sameer Jain, Founder & CEO, Net Solutions and Chair – SME Council, NASSCOM, discussed relevant trends and strategies that are emerging. Moderated by Gautam Srinivasan, CNBC TV18, these industry leaders also explored how digital transformation could empower and facilitate small businesses while building customer centricity.
To set a broader context to the discussions, Sameer Jain commenced by stating that rapid digital-first efforts have helped Indian’s SMBs deal with the pandemic. He shared that a survey of about 1000 respondents by NASSCOM in September 2020 revealed that companies that were digitally savvy did not face as much motion in their businesses as companies which were not. Further, companies that shifted from physical to digital or were relatively digital-first, saw a revenue increase of around 10 to 20% whereas those that were not e-ready clocked a fall in revenue of anywhere between 10-40%. “This event really had a big impact on all of us. While businesses of all sizes moved to digital and are digitizing their operations, there is still a lot of work to be done,” he said.
From the driver’s seat of India’s oldest online travel aggregate, Rajesh Magow narrated his experiences on clawing back lost ground after the pandemic broke out. “Our revenue fell off a cliff; it was down by 95%. So, we had no other option but to go back to the drawing board. There were two issues that we immediately addressed – cost control and balance sheet endurance.” The company had enough resources to get by, but it had to chalk out a roadmap for the future which ensured that even if the disruption continued for the next 2-3 years, the company could withstand the impact. “Once we brought these issues under control, we shifted to thinking of how life would be post-pandemic,” he explained.
Diving into the core of the discussion, Salesforce’s Sanket Atal advised, “SMBs should endeavour to improve efficiencies while keeping their focus on their core competencies. This efficiency comes from proper systems and tools that can streamline various parts of their business. Most SMBs decide to use homegrown solutions but when information sharing is needed within the company, there is no consistent view of the customer,” he said.
At another level, without the right digital solution, the basis for identifying strategic customers is typically subjective rather than based on analytics. Thirdly, as all businesses want to grow, the need for systems that can facilitate scaling up becomes crucial; homegrown systems rarely lend themselves to scale. “SMBs must leverage products that are powerful, quick to get started on and have all the features needed plus the ones that can scale with the company,” he opined.
The discussion proceeded to cover various issues that were relevant to SMBs and technology adoption, including how they could effectively measure the value of their technology investments and deploy limited resources in a better, faster and in cheaper ways to smartly attract customers; the need to define and map goals to business objectives and assess the current tech ecosystem to determining which parts of the business must be digitized as a priority; finding vendors that partner with the company on its digital transformation journey, amongst many others.
There was a clear consensus among the panelists on the importance of data quality, not just for larger businesses but SMBs too. They emphasized that ensuring high quality data could power consumer insights, which in turn enhance customer experiences and attract retail business. Relevance and personalization of customer experiences are crucial and data is the backbone for these.
Sanket Atal urged SMBs to engage customers with cohesive multi-channel experiences by understanding and delighting them, irrespective of which channel they were on. His concluded saying, “By strategically embracing technology to streamline various aspects of their businesses SMBs will not just survive, but truly thrive.”The pages slugged ‘Brand Connect’ are equivalent to advertisements and are not written and produced by Forbes India journalists.