How digitisation, AI, ML can transform SMEs big time

DECCAN CHRONICLE
Published Nov 19, 2018, 2:02 pm IST
Updated Nov 19, 2018, 2:02 pm IST
Every organisation faces a different set of issues and challenges.
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.
 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.

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 half a decade, India has gained a sizeable and ever-expanding base of digital consumers and users of digital devices. According to IAMAI, India will have reached over 500 million internet users by June 2018. A Google-BCG report from 2017, on the other hand, predicts that digital spending in India is set to reach $100 billion by 2020, tripling from $33 billion in 2016-17. Rama Krishna Kuppa, Founder & CEO for ONGO Framework highlights how Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Digitisation can actually transform small to large businesses ahead. Read on.

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 (SME) are still teetering on the threshold of digitisation, debating the value and cost of such a transition. But given the intensifying competition among businesses and rapidly changing consumer behaviour, digitisation presents a huge opportunity for SMEs to scale up and expand their business.

 

Broadly, digital technology offers businesses the following benefits:

•           It enhances productivity and efficiency across the enterprise, and allows for better workflow management;

•           It enables businesses to reach out to and engage customers in innovative ways;

•           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 greatly beneficial to SMEs in reducing several processes like sales planning, managing finances and supply chain, marketing, etc. These processes which most SMEs still conduct through offline methods considerably reduce the efficiency of the enterprise, since the managers’ focus is largely on the operations, rather than on serving customers and retaining them. Simultaneously, digitised business management and enterprise mobility solutions can enable SMEs to expand their business to any region within the country or outside, without having to worry about the infrastructural and monetary challenges associated.

Customised, enterprise-centric solutions with AI and Machine Learning

Every organisation faces a different set of issues and challenges. The solutions, then, to effectively tackle these challenges should also be specific to the business segment, as well as the industry, which the enterprise is involved in. For instance, the same solution which works for a textile manufacturing company cannot possibly work for an auto parts manufacturer.

Automating the sales and supply chain management processes and speeding them up is possible today, thanks to intuitive technologies like AI and machine learning which can be leveraged to build customised solutions that meet the precise requirements of different industries and businesses. This level of customisation is possible with data and SMEs are known to have a lot of it at their disposal. However, most of this data is usually not streamlined, but that’s where machine learning and the power of data analytics can create a huge difference.

Predictive analytics and recognition of patterns are the key benefits of machine learning. AI and ML 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. And 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 – has become widespread over the last few years, particularly among young consumers. Among the major benefits of these digital tools is that they provide businesses the means to interact directly with consumers, receive feedback, and provide value-added services to them by using the insights gained from such interactions. Small and medium businesses that have existed for a long time have a huge repository of customer data, but most of them do not what to do with. With the help of relevant data, AI and ML-driven marketing solutions can streamline 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 for them.

According to the Google-KPMG study, digitally-engaged SMBs have the potential to grow twice as fast as offline SMBs, a fact substantiated by 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’, i.e. 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. But what most small and medium businesses do not realise is that digitising their 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 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 can create a win-win situation all around, for the business, its partners, and other stakeholders such as customers as well as employees.

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