The SMB Nirvana
In India, according to the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, SMBs contribute between 8-9% to the GDP and 34% to the total exports of the country. But the real reason why SMBs are more critical is that they have a wider socio-economic impact. On the one hand they push industrial growth and provide employment, and on the other, they effect social transformation and encourage economic self-reliance at the grassroots level. An SMB, however, needs every help it can get to sustain and grow, and to continue to effect this socio-economic transformation. With technology by its side, an SMB can multiply its potential and spread its impact wider, while growing its profits.
The use of ICT can help an SMB automate everyday tasks, including the management of customer orders, invoicing, tracking production, tracking delivery and managing product and customer information. Automating everyday tasks doesn’t just improve efficiency, it also helps contain costs. With the use of a website, the SMB can attract customers from all over the world. The existing customers can be serviced better with the use of better and more efficient sales and marketing tools, targeted selling due to better management of customer information and preferences, better communication with customers, remove order and delivery errors and gather and incorporate customer feedback. Hopefully our solution providers too are following this path of helping SMBs grow.
While technology for business has been around for a while, SMBs have been reluctant in their overture towards it because it earlier came at a price the SMB could not afford, and often with features that the SMB did not need. All that has changed. Today, there are ICT tools designed and priced specifically for SMBs. Starting with a very small investment and leading up to the entire business model developed around ICT, there is something for every SMB to consider. Just a desktop or laptop computer and an Internet connection can catapult an SMB into the league of connected businesses! With these two things, the door to information and e-mail communication is opened. Searching the web, communicating with partners and customers and maintaining office records are all automated. The partners do have a major role to play here.
SMBs work better in groups—complementing each other’s capabilities, core competencies and areas of business. This collaboration can go awry with poor management. With the use of ICT, this collaboration becomes automated and efficient. Integrating invoices and payments electronically with suppliers is one example of this collaboration. There is, of course, the big league of ICT use— fully integrated business processes. With the use of ERP, SCM, CRM and other such solutions that SMB can use to rub shoulders with the capabilities of the larger enterprises. The good news is that today SMBs don’t have to shelve out millions for that. There are modular versions of these solutions available at flexible payment options for SMBs. However, the solution providers need to act as the friend, guide and philosophers for these SMBs and help them in their path of reaching automation nirvana.