With the latest spade of flash sales and discounts offered by ecommerce websites, it has increasingly become important for the small and medium sized businesses (SMBs), also called small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) to take up the web as a tool for growing their business. The web can be used as a platform by SMBs to showcase their products, interact with consumers and sell their merchandise – essentially help grow their businesses.
The way to web
Talking about how to tackle this platform, Shekhar Dasgupta, Founder of Greenfield Software, said, “Broadcasting, interacting, transacting and collaborating – these are the key elements for SMBs to leverage the web as a platform.”
Explaining further, Dasgupta said, “First thing is to start is with a website. The second way to go is engage with the consumers on social media and interact with them. Then the SMBs can move on to e-commerce and open up transaction options. Finally, SMBs should bring the whole supply chain together.”
Why join the bandwagon?
Web certainly is the buzzword at the moment and SMBs can make the most of what it offers to their advantage by piggy-backing on ecommerce websites to get their products noticed. Madhukar Rajagopal, Director – Industry Strategy & Insight of Oracle said, “Technology can connect the manufacturer to get directly in touch with the customer. SMBs cannot do without technology in this day and age. If SMBs join hands with technology, they can extend their reach. If the B2C SMB firms have the wherewithal to make their own website, to make their own ecommerce platform, then it is great. But if they can’t do that, they also have the option of piggy-banking on players like Flipkart and Amazon to sell their products. Social media is another way to interact with consumers. Mobility is the next thing to think about for SMBs as they need to connect with the consumer on the mobile itself. Through web platforms SME’s can benefit immensely by not having to manage or invest in technology teams, in cross leveraging the customer base and in enhancing the customer engagement process.”
The Diwali sale by ecommerce websites highlighted the first signs of battle between traditional retail and e-tail. Ashwini Kumar Sharma, Co-Founder, Director of HomeConnectOnline.com said, “Whether it is a retail or manufacturing operation, the time has come to gain from the technological revolution and use the opportunity to scale-up. Today anybody can be an entrepreneur or scale-up exponentially just by using web and mobility to reach out to a larger customer base at much lower cost and time. Most of all it is a great interactive tool bringing convenience and reach to both, the provider as well as the customer.”
Anoop Kochar, Director of BG Management Services said, “The need of the hour for SMBs is web. Times have changed and this is the age of e-tailing, so SMBs need to keep up with the time. They have to be aggressive in promoting themselves on the web, branding themselves on the internet.”
The SMB perspective
On the other hand, while SMBs are embracing the technology, not all mediums are turning out to be as productive as touted. Bhupendra Renjen, CEO of Global Nexus said, “As an SMB, web is very important for us. A website is a must. We have a website and employ social media marketing on websites such as LinkedIn. This helps us get business as we are discoverable on the internet. But I also tried search marketing, such as Google AdWords but that did not get me a single enquiry. Social media has been good for a small company like us, but search has not.”
Some SMBs have followed different paths to joining the internet wave. Instead of investing in a website, they leveraged global listing platforms to get themselves noticed. The mobile messaging platform, WhatsApp has also helped SMBs to get the word around. SP Agrawal, CEO of Allied Industries said, “SMBs have started engaging with ecommerce and marketing their products on websites such as eBay, Flipkart and others. Some entrepreneurs are also spending on building their own e-commerce B2C websites. Our company has showcased its products on a popular website called hotfrog. We thereby save on yearly spends and also get exposure on a platform of a global website. We also use WhatsApp for sharing information about our products to various selected groups and send price updates and catalogues to the dealers on this messaging platform.”
The future of SMBs and how they can leverage technology was part of a panel discussion at the BW | Businessworld SME Whitebook Launch & Summit held on October 30 in Gurgaon.