How Salesforce aims to speed up digital journey of MSMEs
Salesforce is now targeting MSMEs with its Starter app as it aims to keep technology simple to use while having all the advanced digital capabilities.
The micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in India are keen to onboard the digital bandwagon but many find it challenging to take the first step as many technology solutions are either not very suitable for their requirements or too complex to use.
Salesforce, the global customer relationship management (CRM) software company wants to address this challenge by providing a solution that is simple to use and offers multiple functionalities on a single platform.
The company recently launched a Salesforce “Starter” solution to address the needs of MSME businesses by offering them a single platform to handle sales, services and email outreach functions. Its app offers tools with AI, data and CRM capabilities. For example, the Einstein Activity Caputre is one of the AI capabilities that is included in the Salesforce Starter and comes with a price of $25 per user per month.
In a conversation with YourStory, Arun Kumar Parameswaran, SVP & MD - Sales and Distribution at Salesforce India, says the idea was to provide a solution where a business owner can be up and running on a digital platform through a few clicks and in very little time.
Edited excerpts of the interview:
YourStory [YS]: How is Salesforce approaching the MSME market in India?
Arun Kumar Parameswaran [AKP]: The roots of Salesforce as a company started from providing technology capability to small companies. We have had customers in the MSME space in India for over 10 years but now we are starting to look at…how we can make the whole digital journey simple for them. There are a myriad of solutions in the marketplace but they are not seamlessly integrated for them to use.
The idea was to bring one integrated solution where literally one could be up and running in 30 minutes and the business owner can pretty much go through the clicks and set up the whole thing with a simple UI.
The market is massive in India right now, however, there are people who are digitally aware but do have access to the technologies, which is a barrier to entry. We have launched “Starter” which will help a lot of MSMEs to adopt technology. As they mature in their journey and want more sophisticated capabilities, they will have the full Salesforce stack.
YS: How is ‘Starter’ different from the other technology solutions of Salesforce?
AKP: MSMEs are doing a lot of basic things like managing customer contacts, leads, market opportunities etc. The challenge is how to service them in simple ways while having a single view of the entire view of cycle of interactions.
If they need a level of capability that goes beyond Starter then we have other software available for them. It depends on the journey and where they are. We believe that for the MSMEs, Starter is more than sufficient.
YS: What do you think are the key asks of MSMEs to implement any new technology?
AKP: The biggest challenge they have is access to technical skills as they do not have the time, bandwidth or energy to go and have to deal with technical people to use basic systems. We want to provide technology that is simple, intuitive and easy to use. This is where Salesforce Starter comes into play.
Secondly, once they deploy and start seeing the value it generates, things begin to change in terms of growth. Here, Starter brings a tool which can integrate all of this together and keep it simple to use.
YS: How has been traction from the MSME segment for Salesforce?
AKP: We have thousands of customers cutting across multiple sectors—be it manufacturing, retail, education, financial services etc. We are a platform that appeals to any customer in any vertical.
Of course, we build very complex industry solutions for the customers at the top of the pyramid where they want those advanced capabilities in their vertical. But Salesforce’s core product is easily adaptable and customisable for any industry vertical. So, we see adoption across a very wide swath of industry segments.
YS: How adept are Indian MSMEs when it comes to digital technologies?
AKP: I don't think the broad spectrum of MSMEs are digitally native. We are talking about millions of them here, including mom-and-pop shops, brick-and-mortar companies etc. They are not digitally native by definition but they are certainly digitally aware. I think the whole smartphone revolution has really changed the way they use technology.
YS: What will be the future plans of Salesforce with Starter in India?
AKP: This is just the start. Even a small conversion from the millions of MSMEs will mean a big number. However, it will not be that easy as there are a host of other technology companies which provide a lot of point solutions. Many probably cannot integrate and bring everything together like how we can do it.
So, as customers get to do a 30-day free trial and buy the solution, we will get a lot of feedback on the product and process. We will then look to refine our strategy.
YS: How different is Starter from Salesforce’s previous strategy for the MSME market?
AKP: Earlier, we had a one-size-fits-all product which was too difficult to consume and use, while not being priced right. I would say MSME customers have a fair level of digital awareness and some level of digital maturity. Today, we have the right product which is priced correctly. It is meant for MSME customers looking for simplicity and who do not have legacy systems.
Edited by Kanishk Singh