India has over 51 million small businesses contributing to over a third of the country’s GDP, and employing nearly 40 percent of its workforce, according to KPMG. As the current macro-economic environment in the country changes rapidly—rising consumption, lowering interest rates, increasing connectivity through physical and digital infrastructure, among others—and the startup ecosystem continues to thrive, we are poised to witness significant growth in both the number of and contribution made by small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs).
India is positioned for a surge in mobile broadband adoption. Today, about one million people access the Internet from their mobile devices every day on the back of a sizeable and growing Internet population of over 460 million (as of 2016). As consumers move online, businesses have no choice but to respond, not only to maintain a presence, but to run a significant part of their business processes online – from marketing to sales to payments to customer service to ongoing advocacy and engagement.
In today’s digitally connected world, India is on the cusp of a full-blown explosion – the Internet has the potential to significantly impact the business outcomes of SMBs. In this fast-moving environment, the leaders of tomorrow will be the SMBs who embrace change and adroitly leverage the Internet to further their objectives.
Here are six trends that can help small businesses leverage the Internet:
As per the Economic Survey, India will become the youngest country in the world by 2021, with 64 percent of its working population in the age group of 20-35 years. This sizable consumer base will drive the consumption of products and services, and set the agenda for how businesses ought to conduct themselves to maximise returns. This consumer base are digital natives and have already proved themselves to be the driving force behind the growth of the online marketplace. They are driving the way companies create offerings, take them to the market, communicate the value proposition, close sales, enlist influencers and garner positive word of mouth. They will continue to be the most relevant demographic for years to come. It is important to understand their motivations and aspirations and choose the right media to engage with them.
Small businesses can today leverage a variety of Internet tools and applications that allow them to exert greater control over their business – driving the desired brand experience, running the right marketing campaigns and delivering the chosen customer engagement.
India is home to the second largest online population after China. This is already impressive, but businesses are yet to catch up to the potential that this online base offers.
A recent Nielsen study says that close to 50 percent of shoppers in India go online to research a product or service before making a purchase decision. It is of paramount importance for small businesses to appreciate and recognise that having an online presence is imperative for growth as their target audience is on the Internet. A website adds credibility to the business, makes the business seem professional and serves as a great promotional tool to help spread the word about the business.
Further, India is already a mobile-first country. Almost every new Internet user today has their first online experience on their mobile device.
A variety of website building platforms are available in the market today that are easy to use and offered at affordable rates. Small businesses need to view these as essential building blocks to help scale their business by broadening their reach, increasing customer loyalty and retention, and increasing their efficiency.
For a new business or an SMB, social media is one of the easiest ways to stay connected with your audience. It presents small businesses the opportunity to increase brand recognition and can help set themselves up for growth with their customers.
The transition to cloud-based service environments is expected to accelerate in 2017. Small businesses will continue to leverage Infrastructure-as-a-Service and Software-as-a-Service models to help satisfy their rapidly growing technology requirements as they scale up, while retaining the desired flexibility in payments for these services.
In addition, this will allow small businesses to adopt leading edge technology solutions to better manage operations and ensure efficiency in operations, without significant outlays on what is essentially a non-core investment, or in managing in-house technology teams.
With on-the-go accessibility and ease of deployment, cloud adoption will continue to be a major trend for small businesses in 2017. Twelve million of the total SMBs in India are technology-ready and are looking to adopt new IT products such as data loss prevention, system backups, and disaster recovery solutions; expect to see continued momentum in this area.
As small businesses increasingly take to the online world to conduct business, their requirements to help protect and secure both their data and the access to their online properties will grow in importance.
Small and medium businesses rank security as among their top technology challenges. SMBs will need to rely on expert vendors and service providers to help ward off vulnerabilities.
Today, data is the new currency and if used effectively and efficiently, it can provide valuable customer insights that can help provide the desired thrust to future business tactics. Businesses can benefit from data they generate daily, by using a range of analytics tools to extract meaningful and actionable insights. As competition heats up, businesses using data insights to help manage their business will be better placed for growth. Now is as good a time as any to dive right into it.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)