How Indian SMEs can tap the big data goldmine

21st Dec 2017
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Using data analytics in business is a great way to move up the ladder of success, with data-driven insights helping business owners take important strategic decisions. The minute you reflect on data insights, new ideas start pouring in and immediately you know your next move. Not only can you improve productivity by shifting from manual to automated processes, you’ll find a significant change in profitability too. That’s the power of big data and analytics, which can be leveraged by small- and mid-sized enterprises (SMEs) as well.

According to the Ministry of Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises’ Annual Report 2016-17, the SME sector contributes about 6 percent to India’s GDP. Employing more than 80.5 million people, the sector contributes over 33 percent to manufacturing and over 45 percent to the Indian export sector. Now imagine if even a fraction of these units employed big data or analytics to drive their business forward. The resulting financial inflow to the economy would be unparalleled and just might steamroll India to being the global giant it aspires to be.

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What is big data analytics and how can SMEs gain from it?

Big data is governed by high volume, high velocity, high variety, and high complexity. In today’s always-connected world, hundreds of thousands of sensors across multiple applications continuously generate streams of data for evaluation. Automated processes collect this virtually unlimited data from various sources in multiple formats. After the collection, it undergoes data processing so that the analytics can be simplified and provide actionable insights, which helps companies make informed business decisions.

Big data and analytics can be wielded to drive decisions for various aspects of a company, such as recruitments, business leads, pricing, and tracking competition, to name some. Since the volumes of data fed into your system can get overwhelming, it is key to understand the utility of this data so that maximum value can be generated.

If you’re still uncertain about how you stand to gain from the technology, read on to find how specific sectors can utilise its features.

E-commerce

An extremely competitive space, e-commerce bases decisions on data day-in and day-out. If you have an online store or are planning to start one, mining big data is the way forward. Data analytics will help you attain and compare prices of products across multiple shopping sites so that you can come up with innovative promotions and fix a good pricing strategy to beat your competitors.

When you start recording data on a regular basis, you will realise the patterns that emerge, and these trends will help you stay up-to-date with the market and outdo your competition.

Offline stores or mom-and-pop stores

A ubiquitous presence, these stores often take advantage of buying from online stores like Amazon and Flipkart to sell at competitive prices locally. They stock up on discounted items during the sale periods and make profits by selling them at the market price later. If this is a business strategy that interests you, putting your efforts to draw insights from the data analytics can take your business a long way.

Rising numbers of kirana stores, local handicraft sellers, smaller restaurants, and chemists, are now realizing the use and benefits of technology. In fact, they are stepping up to open online stores, adopt point-of-sales (POS) systems, use mobile marketing, go cashless, and more. With government-sponsored schemes like “Make in India”, “Digital India”, and the new GST policy, their vision to grow is expanding with the support to make it happen. You too can embrace the latest in technology to face digital-savvy customers, and improve your customer service by looking at omnichannel POS solutions and data insights.

PR agencies and small media houses

Assigned with the responsibility of keeping their clients updated on the latest news, PR firms and news agencies can use big data to track updates on specific online sources or keyword tracking across multiple sites. What was once considered an arduous process is simplified by data mining and big data analytics. With automation, the process of collection, processing, and reporting can be efficiently handled.

Aggregator sites or vertical search engines

Having mushroomed following the internet boom, aggregator platforms – such as travel sites, and shopping sites – have harnessed the power of big data to grow at rapid rate. These sites include the likes of Zomato, MakeMyTrip, UrbanClap, BookMyShow, 99Acres, etc. Selling customer data to other businesses from yellow pages and directories could be another business angle as well.

If you think your vertical has no possible avenues for the use of big data, think again! There may be an idea waiting to see the light-of-day when you run through the data closely and try to come up with ways to make use of it.

Data-driven internal growth

One thing about numbers is that they provide factual details and are never wrong. So the methodology of analytics can be employed for pertinent as well as regular everyday decisions. In this regard, the scope of big data even percolates to improving internal organisational functions.

Garnering business leads

Anyone visiting your website or online store and/or writing reviews about your products and services is also valuable information that you can get from big data analytics. This helps tremendously in sales conversation or business development. There are tools, software, and even specialized services available today to capture this data for you. With this, you can run an online reputation management campaign, garner business leads, and more – the possibilities are vast!

Talent acquisition

Finding the right talent for your growing firm is another area where big data and analytics play a significant role. Reaching out to the right prospects for business using manual processes can be tedious. Advancements in technology have equipped us with the ability to mine resumes in large numbers, scrutinise them, and match them with the required skills needed in the organisation, thus making staffing an efficient process. If you are a small- or mid-sized staffing agency, big data technology can certainly be an important aid.

Marketing team/function

The marketing vertical of your organisation can gain immensely from big data and analytics. Social media tracking and analytics (Facebook analytics, Twitter analytics, Google Analytics, etc.) give marketers incredible insights into consumer sentiments, engagements, demographics, buying behaviour, and trends to plan for effective advertising and marketing campaigns. For every business, no matter what size, details on users visiting your site and the time they spent could be a great insight for your marketing function.

You can support business functions by using technology such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Email Marketing Software (EMS), Marketing Automation Software, Social Media Analytics, and many other free or paid cloud-based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) models.

How to optimally wield the power of big data

Once you decide to take the plunge and start using big data for your company’s growth, it is likely you’re going to be taken aback by the deluge of information coming your way. As mentioned earlier, there is just so much data being generated every day, all day. So how does one make sense of all this noise to arrive at useful conclusions? Here are a few tips:

Identify what the data is for

The usage of big data should be in line with your business objectives. The prime focus should be to make the most out of your data in helping your business grow. So know if you need the tech to stay updated and win clients, or to look for real-time information like pricing, or cut down wastage. If you’re a fledgeling tech company, then the right tool can help you save on technology investment.

Opting for a cloud-based software

With a small subscription fee, you can collect more exclusive information that is unique to you. This will save in-house team setup and integration costs. With the availability of trial periods, SMEs can try and test the available models, and only pay for features that they require.

Research on the agency or candidate you hire

It goes without saying, but read up on the field and have a working knowledge of the technology you’ll be using. Information on the field plays a vital role as you will need to hire someone to help you interpret the data and store it in an organised fashion. A highly qualified data scientist does not come cheap. Therefore, it is best to stick to your budget and find someone that fits in.

The reservation that most SMEs have about big data is something that is common with any new technology. Think about it – these doubts date back to the advent of the internet, but look at us now, busy swiping through different social media platforms. SMEs fail to take advantage of big data because of a lack of understanding, fear of high costs, concerns over data security, and enormous unused data. Some of these fears do have a basis in reality, but with the right guidance, SMEs can make huge gains from big data and transform their organisation in terms of their profit generation, innovations, and productivity.

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