By Rama Krishna Kuppa
In 2016, The Economist reported that “Every second, three more Indians experience the internet for the first time. By 2030, more than 1 billion of them will be online.” Over the past five years, India has gained a sizeable and ever-expanding base of digital consumers and users of digital devices. According to IAMAI, India will over 500 million internet users by June 2018. In fact, according to a Google-BCG report from 2017 digital spending in India is set to reach $100 billion by 2020, tripling from $33 billion in 2016-17.
While large corporations and businesses have spent the last couple of years integrating digital tools along with information and communication technologies, most small and medium Enterprises (SMEs) are still teetering on the threshold of digitisation, debating the value and cost of such a transition. However, given the intense competition among businesses and rapidly changing consumer behaviour, digitisation presents a huge opportunity for SMEs to scale up and expand their business.
AI-based solutions driving enterprise mobility and efficiency
Digital technology offers businesses several benefits, including, enhanced productivity and efficiency across the enterprise which allows for better workflow management. It also enables businesses to reach out to and engage with customers in innovative ways. Additionally, it helps reduce various costs and eliminate redundant and time-consuming processes, thus enabling businesses to maximise their profit margin and drive higher levels of customer satisfaction
More specifically, AI-based solutions like automation can be beneficial to SMEs in reducing several time-consuming processes such as sales planning, managing finances and supply chain, marketing amongst others. These processes are conducted by most SMEs through offline methods currently and they considerably reduce the efficiency of the enterprise. Similarly, digitised business management and enterprise mobility solutions can enable SMEs to expand their business to any region within or outside the country without having to worry about the infrastructural and monetary challenges associated.
Customised, enterprise-centric solutions with AI and Machine Learning
Due to intuitive technologies like AI and machine learning leveraged to build customised solutions that meet the precise requirements of different industries and businesses it is possible to automate sales and supply chain management processes. Additionally, predictive analytics and pattern recognition are key benefits of machine learning. Al and Machine Learning algorithms can analyse routine business processes and identify recurring patterns within them and automate them to provide fixed outcomes, only in a much more efficient manner. Data is the bedrock of automation – the more of it there is, the more efficient and quicker are the outcomes. Moreover, data is also a critical component that can drive the success of any business’ digital sales and marketing strategies, while adding a significant edge to its interactions with customers.
Data, AI, and the new paradigms of customer service
The adoption of smartphones and mobile applications – which have emerged as rich sources of data for businesses – have become widespread over the last few years, particularly among young consumers. Digital tools provide businesses with the means to interact directly with consumers, receive feedback, and provide value-added services to them by using the insights gained from such interactions. SMEs have a huge repository of customer data but do not know how to use it. With the help of relevant data, AI and Machine Learning-driven marketing solutions the entire customer lifecycle management function, from targeting consumers, communicating with them, managing transactions, and providing a range of pre- and post-sales services to create additional value can be streamlined.
According to a Google-KPMG study, digitally-engaged SMBs have the potential to grow twice as fast as offline SMBs, due to today’s modern digital consumers. These are consumers who expect digital accessibility, convenience, and personalisation from brands and service providers. They are largely ‘digital natives’ or individuals under the age of 35 years who have a clear preference for digitisation over offline methods of communicating and transacting. Incidentally, these consumers currently comprise nearly two-thirds of the Indian population, and with more and more young individuals using digital devices and the internet, the growth of the SME sector hinges on how well it can adapt to digitisation and serve these customers.
Although many SMEs are still reluctant to adopt new technologies, their concerns are related to the costs that are involved in building a digital infrastructure. However, it is important to understand that digitising operations and processes can result in substantial cost savings and improve their profit margins, which can be reinvested into the business towards further expansion. Furthermore, going digital and leveraging technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data analytics can open up a huge avenue for local SMEs and connect them to a global market. Ultimately, it is undeniable that digitisation of SMEs and the use of intelligent technologies will benefit the business, its partners, and other stakeholders such as customers as well as employees.
Rama Krishna Kuppa is the founder and CEO of the ONGO Framework.
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