by March 1, 2012 0 comments

Last month, I went to Ludhiana to anchor the PCQuest SMB Forum, our multi-city event series that has been running successfully for seven years now, which aims to help Indian SMBs understand and leverage IT for business growth. During this trip, I had the opportunity to interact with some of the top honchos from Ludhiana’s bicycle manufacturing industry. They raised several concerns that their industry is facing today, which didn’t come as a surprise to me, because they’re very similar to the concerns I’ve heard from many other SMBs across the country.

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There was the usual threat from China, which is the largest bicycle manufacturer in the world, and is able to produce much lower rates than India. Loss of business opportunity due to cartel formation by larger players was another concern, followed by concerns related to power shortages, unfriendly labor laws, import duties, exchange rates, and several others.

While we can’t really comment about govt and policy changes, we can definitely talk about how technology can be used to address some of these concerns. The key thing to remember is that IT can effective be used for three things -automate, communicate more effectively, and innovate. At the end of the day, there’s plenty of technology available at various price points for every business need.

ERP for instance, can be used to automate a lot of business processes in the organization. It’s available at various price points, including the open source ones that can be freely downloaded from the Internet. What’s needed is a precise and detailed definition of your requirements to map to the software. For instance, we know organizations where an ERP deployment failed because the ground staff that was supposed to use it didn’t know English, while the ERP software’s interface was in English. We also know of other ERP deployments in SMBs where the organization doubled its annual revenue from 40 to 80 Cr without increasing its manpower. Coming to communication, what’s needed is effective communication and not fast communication. There are car repairing workshops for instance, that have implemented an SMS gateway that informs the customer by SMS that their car has been serviced. That’s an innovative way to provide better customer service. Similarly, there are a plethora of communication technologies that can help reduce cost, like VoIP, video conferencing, free online collaboration tools to work from anywhere, etc. So with the current financial year coming to an end, it’s important for SMBs to understand that the market realities will always remain and will keep challenging you. What you need is to identify the right technologies and use them innovatively to reduce your cost, improve productivity, and enhance customer service, similar to the technology examples I just talked about.

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