Small and medium sized businesses know better than anyone else the challenges of running or scaling a business – the fierce competition, tight budgets, and demanding customers who eat into their already-thin margins and eat away at any time available to think of solutions. So how do you as a business differentiate yourself in a highly competitive and fragmented market, or at least create an opportunity for itself to do so?
The answer is to leverage tech and let your organisation be its best digital self.
In an age where consumers have little time and even less patience, technology has become the bedrock of commerce, small and medium sized businesses – the backbone of India’s economy – must embrace the digital route to growth. Here’s how to amp-up your tech game to grow your business and make it more valuable.
In 2016, The Economist reported that “Every second, three more Indians experience the internet for the first time.” And that, “By 2030 more than 1 billion of them will be online,”. According to IAMAI, India is likely to have 500 million internet users by June 2018, with as many as 186 million users in rural areas. We also have to take into consideration that nearly two-thirds of our population is aged 35 or less, and highly likely to be either digital natives or digital-firsts, social media-savvy, and search and conduct most of their activities – including search and purchases – online. (Source: Demographics of India). Finally, a Google-BCG report from 2017 predicts that digital spending in India is expected to reach $100 billion by 2020, tripling from $33 billion in 2016-17.
Consumers today expect the same quality of digital accessibility, convenience, and personalization for their business dealings with you, so you have to be ready to serve “digital natives” – customers who prefer digital over other methods, to discover, explore, collaborate and transact online. In fact, a Google-KPMG study found that digitally engaged SMBs grow twice as fast as offline SMBs.
Digital opens up another avenue for local businesses: the ‘glocal’ market. Whether your customer is in the next neighborhood, next city, or in a country half-way around the world, your digital presence can connect you to any of these without incurring an additional cost. Nevertheless, the real value of digital is in the innovation and scale it brings to a business. You can be a hyper-local as well as an international player with the same digital infrastructure. The right tech solutions can handle incoming and outgoing traffic at massive scale – thousands and even millions of transactions, information requests, videos and personalized interactive chat sessions, among other things. Going digital allows you to bundle and unbundle your offerings in new combinations for new kinds of audiences. Most importantly, you can experiment with and fine-tune a range of new business models.
In a digital world, your competitor is as close to your customer as you are, no matter where in the world they both may be. When customers have more options, competition is fierce. Even fiercer is the fight for margins when big-volume players squeeze you on pricing. Which means that as a business, your operations, productivity and efficiency need to be top notch.
When you leverage tech, it’s just as important to be able to measure those improvements through clear metrics. Activity metrics, for instance, can include web traffic, app downloads, footfalls and online interactivity. Process metrics track improvement of core business processes, such as lowering costs of acquisition, higher efficiency in marketing, better price comparison services, higher sales rates, and so on. Knowledge metrics such as customer insights, analytics and behavioral profiles you build up, and best practices for improving revenues, can extend all the way to patents and intellectual property (IP) too. People metrics include the level of satisfaction of your customers, employees, managers and business partners. And finally, all these measures lead to business metrics: the number of new product lines, customer segments, international markets, incremental revenue, higher savings and profit margins, and even better valuation.
If you’re wondering who’s going to manage your IT, the answer is, you are. And it’s not rocket science. Gone are the early days of complex and complicated technology management – today’s solutions have benefited greatly from advances in user experience design and can now be managed by your own staff. You need neither an external consultant nor a dedicated IT person in-house – the infrastructure can be managed, monitored and tracked by your own key managers, with just a little training.
Technology solution providers also help build capacity for your workforce by increasing digital literacy through a number of customized educational modules and workshops. Many of these are accessible online for on-demand instruction. Upskilling workforces in the digital age is a key priority for digital transformation, but the benefits are long-term and cumulative.
While tech is a powerful tool for you to disrupt and differentiate, it could also be your most vulnerable asset too. Cybercrimes are constantly evolving, and being a small business owner means you’re in a high-risk group - according to a 2018 Internet Security Threat Report.
It is therefore important that security underscores every aspect of your digital efforts. Look for a single point of management for all your on-premises and cloud systems. One view of all your people and assets that matter will help simplify access to cloud applications and keep your users safe and productive.
A powerful intuitive security framework that pre-empts threats will help with rapid detection, investigation and protect you from a wide range of security threats across your on-premises and cloud IT assets.
The more your business volumes and profit margins increase through the use of innovations like digital infrastructure, the more the market value of your business can increase. For example, US-based grocery chain Blue Apron went public and is trading at a revenue multiple of about 1x, whereas online marketplace CarGurus, which also had an IPO, is valued at a revenue multiple greater than 10x thanks to its greater use of digital process transformation (source: Inc magazine).
Going digital also benefits your own employees with remote-working digital solutions in place, they can be productive even when they are out of the office. They can also be updated on the latest developments in deals and customer interactions thanks to easy and affordable real-time access. This, in turn, will help them focus on the high-value aspects of business rather than mundane tasks. The result will then benefit your business, and the value of savings and innovation can either improve margins or be passed on to your customers. It would also provide you the option of reinvesting these savings into expanding your business. The ultimate transformation is not just technology or business process, but leadership and organizational culture. Digital gives you the best combination of all: a win-win-win, for customers, employees, and of course businesses.
For most tech startups, tech infrastructure is one of the earliest decisions and is possibly one of the most important. Luckily for most startups, these decisions are becoming much easier. With over 30 years of experience in helping small businesses to thrive, Dell is dedicated to creating the products and services growing startups require. It also offers a personal level of partnership for peace of mind that your technology will perform the way you need, even as your business evolves.
Dell’s Small Business Technology Advisors are available and ready to help with your tech challenges so you can focus on running your business. From selecting the right systems to incorporating servers or creating networks for employees and clients near and far, they can make managing your technology easy, and give you a great deal too!
This article is part of the Dell Startup Academy series. Read more such articles here.
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