According to Google-KMPG study cited above, digitally-empowered SMEs have about twice the revenue growth projections in comparison to offline SMEs. This is an area of large opportunity for tech companies, where they can profit tremendously by helping SMEs grow through technology innovation. In an effort to fill the widening gap between large and small businesses, tech companies are fast competing to provide digital infrastructure support to SMEs. This includes a wide array of support, from digital payments to cloud to AI-led innovation.
The need of the hour is for industry stakeholders, government policy makers and enterprises to work together to enable the digital empowerment of SMEs, which have been left behind. Big tech companies have realised the opportunity as they are actively helping Indian SMEs adopt newer technologies like cloud, AI, process automation, IoT and data analytics to make enterprise process like accounting, inventory management, sales, marketing, HR, customer service, etc more efficient and at par with their large global counterparts.
WhatsApp launches SMBSaathi Utsav to help small biz adopt digital solutions
WhatsApp India announced SMBSaathi Utsav – an initiative that aims to support small businesses by helping them adopt digital mediums such as the WhatsApp Business App to run their business.
SMBSaathi Utsav has kicked off with a pilot in Jaipur’s Johri Bazaar and Bapu Bazaar where over 500 small businesses are being trained on various aspects of running their business online. The intent of this initiative is to educate and help small businesses unlock the potential of their business through WhatsApp.
India is home to approximately INR 6.3 Cr MSMEs accounting for 30% of the country’s GDP and employing over 110 million people at present. During the pandemic, these businesses were severely affected witnessing a 20-50% decline in their overall earnings. One of the major reasons behind this fall was the lack of market access, said a press statement from WhatsApp.
To help these businesses revive from this downturn, WhatsApp launched the SMBSaathi initiative earlier this year, which showcased inspiring stories of business owners across India who pivoted to digital ways of doing business during the pandemic. For many of these businesses WhatsApp was their first digital gateway and an easier and more effective alternative to building and maintaining a website. The SMBSaathi Utsav is the second phase of the SMBSaathi campaign.
Abhijit Bose, Head of WhatsApp India said, “We are excited to launch the SMBSaathi and SMBSaathi Utsav programmes dedicated to India’s small business community. Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and technology has the potential to further boost their business. During the pandemic, we saw several small business owners thriving by using simple platforms such as WhatsApp Business App to stay connected with their customers. We are committed to finding new ways of increasing awareness about simple digital tools for businesses to support and celebrate the spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation in India.”
As part of the SMBSaathi Utsav, trained volunteers are providing one-on-one digital training to businesses in Johri Bazar and Bapu Bazaar in Jaipur. These trainings involve educating the business owners about building a digital presence on the WhatsApp Business App to help them better manage incoming leads and queries, build a product/services showcase and market to key audiences using online tools.
Businesses across sectors such as traditional arts and handicrafts, jewelry, fashion and apparel, food and beverage outlets and several others are being trained on using the various features of the WhatsApp Business App and are being guided on how they can market their product to the right audiences.
What Tech Companies Are Doing To Foster Technology Adoption In SME Sector
Elaborating how different companies are focusing on the SME sector, we see many examples. One of the most prominent is telecom giant Reliance Jio announced that it wanted to expand the digital benefits and make them more inclusive for small and medium sized businesses.
The company said SMEs will be given cheap digital services, from compute to storage, to connectivity. Jio’s partnership with tech giant Microsoft will help provide the cloud services Jio would need to scale the infrastructure to millions of SMEs across India.
Yet another example is Cisco, one of the world’s largest players in cloud networking, which recently set the target of having interactions with 25 SMEs everyday in an initiative to help them go digital. About 30% of Cisco’s business in India comes from SMEs, and therefore the company has made SMEs a big priority. The company has reported that the SMEs want simple solutions and therefore cloud-based offering from the company has been extremely successful among SMEs, adding 5,000 new customers this year in India. “We are seeing significant traction in our SME business, thanks to ‘Start’ portfolio. Since the launch of Cisco Start portfolio in FY17, we have on-boarded 5,000 new customers in a year,” Cisco India and SAARC Managing Director.
Apart from that, Google has also been working to capture this booming market with its enterprise offerings such as Google for Work, Google Cloud and others. The company’s CEO has also stated that Google will provide digital training to “thousands of small businesses so they can adopt technologies. Digital Unlocked is one such program run by Google in partnership with industry body FICCI, to provide Indian SMEs key digital skills to help them to get online and connect to customers in different parts of the country.
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