Digitalisation of MSMEs could be an engine for sustainability

The MSME industry is more susceptible to negative impacts to their supply chain, labor supply and market demand for goods and services than bigger firms, writes Utkarsh Gupta, Managing Director, Ramagya Mart, as he explores how digitisation can help.
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MSMEs form a crucial part of the Indian economy and have contributed greatly to the country's socio-economic growth. More than 40 percent of India’s work force is engaged by the MSME sector.

They consist of firms from the manufacturing as well as the service sector. It not only produces employment opportunities but also helps in the development of the nation's backward and rural areas.

Indian MSMEs have historically followed the traditional path, catering to domestic markets via direct-to-consumer (D2C) or as a component of the value chain of B2B giants. With the ever-changing demands and tastes of their clients, they are increasingly attempting to cope with industry dynamics by developing innovations and customisations in their services.

According to IBEF, the number of registered MSMEs increased to 2.5 million in 2020 as a result of the implementation of the Udyog Aadhaar Memorandum Policy.

According to IBEF estimates, there are around 6.3 crore MSMEs in the country now. As per Ministry of Statistics & PI, share of MSME Gross Value Added (GVA) in India’s GDP for the year 2019-20 was 30 percent .

Indian MSMEs produce more than 6,000 products for local and international consumption. According to Directorate General of Commercial Intelligence and Statistics (DGCIS) data, the value of MSME related commodities in India was $147,390.08 million during the 2017-18 period. These statistics clearly show the value contribution of this sector for India.

Lack of resources

The MSME industry is more susceptible to negative impacts to their supply chain, labor supply and market demand for goods and services than bigger firms. This is primarily because MSMEs in comparison with large industries, do not have adequate resources, particularly monetary and administrative, and are not prepared for such long-term disturbances.

According to rough estimations, the COVID-19 pandemic impacted MSME incomes by 30 to 50 percent. Many businesses in this sector have run out of both cash and capital, while many others are on the edge of a collapse.

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) can cause a gigantic growth in the socio-economic advancement of the Indian economy by helping the MSME sector to re-invent and digitalise for better productivity and higher profits.

To a large extent, the question of whether MSME sector needs to jump onto the digitalisation bandwagon is an old story now.

Digitalisation is not really a choice but rather a necessity, which will bring about stability to their business performance and broaden their reach. In a survey conducted by MSC in India, Indonesia, Kenya, and the Philippines, it is unfortunate that only 38 percent of respondents have revealed that they either increased the use of digital payments or started using digital methods of payment for their deals & transactions.

Why digitisation helps

The advantages of digitalisation is umpteen for the MSME, which allows them to differentiate themselves from their competitors. Ecommerce platforms allow MSMEs to attain greater access to diverse transnational markets and can diminish the risks within supply chains.

It will help promote cost-effective business policies. MSMEs that use the Internet reduce their costs by about 22 percent to get raw materials, manage inventory and gain increased productivity.

Digitalisation will help in better customer engagement too. MSMEs that administer digitally can regulate their customer base effectively by using social media platforms to ensure greater engagement levels.

The lockdown has given a big boost to ecommerce and online shopping with the years 2020 and 2021 witnessing more than 75 percent new customer base to these portals. As buyers have radically changed their buying patterns, digitisation has become necessary to run a business.

From a finance point of view, it leads to bigger and fairer access to funds. As MSMEs improve their digital footprint, they become more noticeable to banks and financiers. MSMEs can effortlessly access credit as monetary institutions can employ digital data to assess credit threats more precisely.

Digitalisation would help increase geographical reach and help acquire new consumers. With the development of digital platforms, the surging prominence of ecommerce, and the lesser obstacles to entry, MSMEs can widen their market and resist the limitations of physical location.

Ecommerce has also made it possible for MSMEs to attend to rural and remote customers, enlarging their customer base. In Africa, 82 percent of the industries engaged entirely in transnational ecommerce are micro and small enterprises. Ecommerce also extends easy access to the international markets for women-run and owned ventures. And a similar trend is being witnessed in India.

Customer credit management is another feature that gets eased with digitalisation as MSMEs can trace customer credit and can also set a limit of credit for customers. It can act as a risk mitigation technique and keep a check on the credit loss and help maintain an efficient cash flow in the business.

However, digitisation is not an easy road to take for this sector primarily because of the traditional nature of business that this sector is used to. MSMEs require more promising access to e-platforms, better payment and delivery services, simplified customs procedures, a vigorous data privacy system, and well-targeted talent building to ensure that they prosper from ecommerce.

The Government of India has newly launched the ‘Digital Saksham Initiative’ in partnership with MasterCard to enhance the ability of MSMEs to market their products greater, through better know-how and virtual payment acknowledgement.

The ‘Digital MSME Scheme’ is launched for facilitating Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in MSME Sector by adopting ICT tools and applications in the production and industry procedures. Digital MSME Scheme is also intended for creating awareness, bolstering developments and e-platforms, building literacy, training and nurturing digital marketing in the MSME sector.

Digital literacy is something that will play a big role in catalysing the use of digital technologies and catering to skill gaps. The government in India, along with edtech startups, and many other tech companies have come together to help out MSMEs in developing their business online.

But the road ahead is still a long one and with the third wave affecting most regions, MSME sector will have to brace themselves and be digitally agile at the earliest possible.

Edited by Anju Narayanan

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)

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