During these uncertain times, it can be easy to forget that certain fundamental paradigm shifts were well underway before the pandemic ever took root. One of those is the spectacular rise of digital infrastructure in India.
Over half a billion Indians now have access to smartphones. Between high profile government projects to enable digital literacy and a private sector push towards indigenous ePayment, video conferencing, and so many other key business functions, SMEs have a window of opportunity right now to make transition to a digital, mobile-centric future. Let’s take a look at some of the ways mobile business solutions will transform the SME landscape in the years to come
Democratising business by reducing opex
Capital investment – on physical premises, equipment, transportation, and compliance are all barriers of entry for struggling SMEs and for entrepreneurs aspiring to start their first company. Mobile and digital break down barriers to access by drastically reducing operating expenses and capital investment in key areas. A startup with an innovative mobile idea doesn’t need physical premises to do business anymore. An SME with limited resources and risk appetite can explore offering a service line over mobile videoconferencing while keeping cost (and risk) to a minimum. Mobile also enables more cost-effective collaborations across the value chain. SMEs can leverage mobile platforms to access gig economy services like delivery, infrastructure and human talent on an as-needed basis. The combined effect here is a democratisation of business, with barriers coming down and entrepreneurs free to try new things.
Scale reach from hyper-local to international
Mobile platforms give SME owners anywhere, anytime access to a virtual market without barriers. Service providers – especially those that have transitioned to pure play digital models – will find that their target market is no longer restricted by geography. A video game reseller can sell digital activation codes to students in the neighbourhood and enthusiasts halfway across the world.
Digital also makes it easier for SMEs to sell physical products – collaborations with delivery services, or implementing first-party local delivery via a mobile app can get products straight to the customer’s doorstep. In local and hyper-local contexts, this can actually mean a faster delivery experience than conventional eTailers like Amazon.
Leveraging digital innovations to maximise efficiency
A wide range of mobile-centric solutions to business problems makes it possible for SMEs to significantly improve efficiency and cost-effectiveness at minimal expense. Mobile ERP can help SMEs track expenses and receivables at a fraction of the cost of enterprise solutions. Digital storefronts, and social media provide entire platforms for SMEs to sell and promote their services at next to no cost. Successful SMEs will have their eyes open to digital innovations in their industries. A solid SME digital strategy doesn’t have to be expensive or complex to deliver results, as long as it’s carefully thought out and aligned with business needs.
Conclusion: The mobile-centric SME future is here
For SMEs, the mobile future is already here. With nearly half the Indian population already connected via smartphones, mobile isn’t innovation- it’s what SMEs are doing right now. The way forward lies in going beyond the storefront and the Facebook page, to leverage mobile to offer unique experiences – like AR, for instance – that go places that just can’t be reached offline.
-The author is co-founder, Biz-Analyst. Views expressed are personal.