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A Billion Dollar Opportunity — Maximising The Small Business Potential With Technological Innovation


Technology adoption is helping small businesses scale up faster with higher margins

Even with billions of dollars in opportunity, the market hasn’t responded fast enough to the unique needs of SMBs

The market needs focussed technology innovation that can help small businesses get smarter and bring in a new level of efficiency

The fastest growing economy, the second largest market for developers and the third largest startup nation — these are the phrases often attributed to India today. India’s innovative startup ecosystem has attracted the world’s attention. In just a decade the country has witnessed the launch of 49,000 startups. Add small and medium businesses (SMBs) to the mix and we are looking at a staggering 42.5 Mn business units driving India’s growth story. One of the primary reasons for this growth has been the access to innovative technology.

The core facilitators of these new-age innovative technologies for small businesses have traditionally been multinational businesses; whether that’s cloud computing simplified for small businesses by the likes of Amazon Web Services, loan disbursal by NBFCs such as DMI Finance, or products, services, and partnerships personalised for businesses by Dell. India’s SMBs also got a major helping hand from the digital and technology revolution in the country, which allowed them to transform the way they operate and scale up.

First came the ecommerce revolution which meant vendors across product categories, even in previously disconnected Tier 2 cities of India, could run successful businesses by using online tools to reach a wider audience and scale across geographies. Mobile payments gave SMBs a further push, and have become such a norm that even your friendly neighbourhood ‘panwallah’ now accepts Paytm. There are great examples from India about using technology to grow SMBs. Manufacturers such as Finecure Pharma are registering phenomenal revenue growth by using cloud productivity solutions and analytics.

SMBs are adopting digital technologies in all aspects of their operations, with a goal to improve productivity, efficiency, and gain cost advantages. For instance, SMBs have been using software tools to make accounting and tax planning simpler, which eases complications for changes in taxation law, and using integrated applications to track sales efficiency, improve customer service and transparency, and reduce business overheads.

In the last five years, the way small businesses run has transformed. Not hindered by legacy systems and thought processes, they have leveraged technology to build new business models, launch innovative products and services, and create new sales and customer engagement models. And they are reaping the rewards of going digital — faster growth, higher margins, and more business.

Dell: Tailor-Made Technology For Small Businesses

According to IDC, SMB spending on IT hardware, software, and services, including business services, is expected to reach $684 Bn in 2021. India will be one of the fastest growing markets for IT spending in SMBs, growing at 7% CAGR from 2016-2021.

But adoption of technology and penetration within SMBs remains a major challenge. Even with the obvious advantages and demand, the market hasn’t responded fast enough in adopting innovations to cater to the technology needs of small businesses. Up until a few years ago, the major technology players were largely enterprise focussed, but India’s growth story and the role of SMBs has proven that this needs to change quickly.

Dell is one of the first companies to see this gap and move in to solve the problems for small businesses. Dell’s curated range of SMB-friendly technology stacks are purpose-built for various business needs no matter the stage or scale of the business.

Dell’s journey in India and in providing solutions to Indian businesses started in the year 2000, with a strong focus on empowering small businesses with high performance technology at low cost. In addition, the company has consistently launched initiatives supporting growth in this sector, such as the Dell Small Business Excellence Awards and the Dell Startup Challenge.

Innovation At Dell: Boosting Small Businesses

When Forus Health CEO K Chandrasekhar first came across preventable blindness, he knew he had to do something about it. A massive 75% of blindness cases are preventable, according to a National Programme for Control of Blindness report. This is largely due to lack of access to doctors and medical professionals who can diagnose and treat common eye problems and thus prevent blindness. He conceptualised Forus Health to improve patient access to eye examinations. Forus Health’s portable device 3nethra can be used by anyone with minimal training and works by taking an image of the eye and sending it over the cloud to ophthalmologists who can assess and diagnose the illness. Available in metros and even in remote locations such as Leh and the Amazon rainforest, Forus Health is said to have touched over 2 Mn lives. A large part of the success is down to the use of high-power computing devices which work even in harsh environments. Dell’s rugged laptops and ‘anytime, anywhere’ support have helped spread Forus Health’s critical work to these remote areas.

Access to healthcare is of course a huge problem, but India also has to deal with the severe shortage of drinkable water. At least one person dies every five hours due to contaminated water. Dell works with Indian startup Drink Prime, which has created a smart water purifier IoT and analytics platform for computing needs. Similarly, Dell has worked with Tarjima, a white label app which helps small businesses leverage ecommerce opportunity in regional languages, and provides reliable support across India for its operations.

Be it ruggedness for Forus Health, computing power for Drink Prime, or reliability for Tarjima, small businesses need focussed and dedicated solutions for their unique challenges. Simply tweaking existing enterprise solutions is not the answer. Dell has invested in SMB-specific innovation to help them work smarter, at less cost and more efficiently.

Dell is also going beyond preliminary solutions and looking to solve sector-specific challenges. For example, in one of its roadshows, Dell realised that SMBs in the manufacturing sector largely use desktop PCs, which had aging hardware. This meant engineers and designers had to wait for a long time for renders on standard CAD/CAM or similar applications, which directly impacted efficiency and timelines. Dell partnered with ISVs (Independent Software Vendors) to solve this problem, which led to its latest initiative for the SMB ecosystem.

Taking Small Business Experience To The Next Level

Dell now offers its SMB offerings and products, along with 30+ solutions from the likes of Intel, McAfee, Microsoft, and other major software vendors and solutions providers, at the Dell Small Business Solution Centre. A perfect example of Dell’s commitment to innovation when it comes to SMBs, the centre is designed on the lines of a startup coworking space. Available to Dell customers in Bengaluru, it is primarily a hub for entrepreneurs to meet, network, collaborate, and showcase their products. The centre is also fostering the growth of the Indian startup ecosystem.

The centre is not just a showcase of Dell’s offerings, but is a place where SMBs learn and ideate on maintaining a competitive edge with limited resources and figure out how to:

Meet rising customer expectations

Digital consumers are pushing businesses to deliver on what they’ve become used to — great experiences, omnichannel presence, responsive design, instant response to customer queries, and proactive customer support. SMBs need to meet these demands while being more cost effective than the competition.

Engage the gig economy and new age workforce

Working with freelancers and an increasingly millennial workforce, SMBs need to give them tools to do their job better. This new-age workforce wants smart technology and connected devices that can help them collaborate remotely, enable them to work on the go, allow access to information on the edge, and help them work smarter. Dell has launched solutions such as Workspace ONE and AirWatch to address the workforce mobility challenge for small businesses. Their compute and cloud solutions enable collaboration by giving the workforce access to the right tools wherever they are.

Do more with less

The main challenge for SMBs is the limited resources they have to work with. Maximising productivity while optimising resources to save time, cost, and effort is their main goal. For instance, even resources such as smaller desktops to make optimal use of office space can make a big difference to a small business in terms of efficiency and productivity. Products like Dell’s OptiPlex, a small form factor desktop which saves space as well as uses low power, were designed keeping these requirements in mind.

Technology solutions that can simplify and streamline processes, enable rapid scaling, automate non-core function areas such as marketing, HR, finance, and more, and make communication more efficient and economical are in high demand. An added incentive is technology on tap to pay-as-you-go and only for what you use. Dell’s EqualLogic storage area network systems, tower servers, and bank servers deploy easily and take away the complexities of running infrastructure.

SMBs can also connect with Dell’s Small Business Advisors at the small business solution centre to discuss and solve their challenges around financing, deployment, management, and equipment maintenance. Most importantly, Dell conducts a technology audit to understand how a business is run and what kind of tools can make it more profitable and efficient. This insight into the unique needs of each business has helped Dell break the mould.

Dell’s resounding success in SMB innovation is testament to the fact that there is no one size fits all approach, at least not for the Indian market. The company plans to continue experimenting with unique solutions that meet the needs of every business and has some interesting offerings in pipeline.

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