Microsoft Nigeria recently in a meeting in Lagos, Nigeria says Small and Medium Enterprises must leverage technology to survive the current economic challenges facing Nigeria.
Mr Christopher Ahonsi, Customer Immersion Experience Lead, Microsoft Nigeria, spoke on the sidelines of the Annual SME Forum 2016 organised by BusinessDay Media Ltd in Lagos that technology will help SMEs to cut cost of running their business, while still maintaining the quality and efficiency of their products or services.
“Considering the current situation we are in Nigeria, though we know it will not be permanent, I believe that for a startup or an existing SME to scale and have the ability to be in the market at the most efficient rate, the best and most viable option is for it to rely heavily on subsidised technology,” Ahonsi explained.
“As a startup, you obviously do not have full financial resources at your call. So you need to make sure that you rely on technology that can help you scale and cost you the most minimal amount of money. In terms of human, you also want to make sure that you have technology that can give you that level of scalability as supposed to you going to employ four or five people to do one particular type of job,” he adds.
With the current financial resource scarcity SMEs should “look out for solutions that would enable you to use the little you have to give you the maximum output.”
According to the Microsoft exec, “there are solutions like the mailing platform, Outlook, a lot of things we sell today have to do with cloud computing and the ability for startups and SMEs to decide to do business without worrying about infrastructures, having to buy servers, having to buy all those hardware products that would help drive your business.”
He says that solutions out there “like talking about Skype for Business, it will save you a lot of money on your travel and expenses. You don’t have to necessarily go physically to visit all your customers, as you can easily do that via the Internet across different platforms and different geographical location.”
The Microsoft Nigeria CIE Lead says that data acquisition in the country is a big challenge and notes that there is a massive major gap in terms of having a central database in Nigeria.
He however suggest that despite the difficulty in data acquisition in the country, SMEs can use the currently available business intelligent solutions for their data analysis.
“Our current business intelligent solutions can be used in another direction. For example, you would generally produce data from whatever business you are running. Use those data generated by yourself in a more intelligent manner. You can make more accurate business intelligence decisions based on current data that you are currently able to develop yourself,” he adds.
Nigerian SMEs also need to leverage social media as a means to create more awareness about their businesses, which he says will in turn lead to increased productivity.
“For a company with scarcity of resources, Social media is a platform, an avenue that allows you to be able to reach out to those people that you would not naturally be able to reach out to. Today, with a click of button on your phone, you can reach out to someone in China, who can like your product you have made in Nigeria. They have not even seen you, they have not visited your factory, they do not know your mode of operation, but they have been able to go online on the platform that invites the whole world,” Ahonsi says.
According to him, “without social media, it would have been difficult for an enterprise to reach out to such a customer without intentionally trying to reach out to that particular customer.”
The Microsoft CIE Lead further highlighted that Microsoft Nigeria has designed a special solution for Nigerian SMEs which he says is very simple and being provided at subsidized rates.
“Microsoft is fully aware of the current economic situation. As such, we have made proper preparation by providing a particular service package that is tailored towards SMEs customers. It’s a package that gives you the most basics of our solutions at a very affordable price without complexity involved. You do not have other solutions that you don’t necessarily need for your business to run. We have handpicked core solutions that we feel would relate directly to SME customers at a very subsidised rate,” according to him.
While speaking at the event, Adeyemi Tanimomo, Product Specialist, Value Added Services at MainOne, a Network service company in Nigeria, says that availability of broadband will boost productivity for Nigerian SMEs.
Speaking specifically on how broadband can have a profound effect on SMEs, the MainOne exec tells attendees at the forum that “broadband helps them to gain access on current day knowledge on how to get access to cost-effective solutions to be able to remain competitive. Broadband also helps to gain access to customers, to employees, to vendors and to business partners easily.”
He says that, “for instance, you cannot talk about collaboration without broadband. You cannot talk about social networking without broadband, and you cannot talk about mobile workforce without broadband. These are areas where broadband helps the SMEs to drive business growth, to drive efficiency, to cut down operation cost. Rather than having to travel everywhere to meet with your customers and vendors, you are able to setup a conference calls and online meetings with them.”
For Tanimomo, there are a lot of applications today that SMEs can leverage to cut communication cost for their businesses, which he says can enable them setup online meetings free of charge.
“For instance, you can setup Skype on your employees’ laptops or phones and you can rate them through chats without spending so much money on GSM calls. All it takes is having Internet to power your communications.
“The world is becoming data driven and broadband is the underlying driver that helps to achieve a lot of results for the SMEs,” he says.
“MainOne has created a solution called ‘SME in a Box’. This solution is a combination of all communication services that would help drive productivity for the SMEs. This includes services like Internet, voice, cloud services that helps the productivity of the SME. It helps them to improve operational efficiency, helps them to cut down costs and helps them to focus on their core business.”
He wants SMEs to explore the available technology which are free to cut down cost and become more efficient in their businesses.
“SME’s should therefore leverage on the power of technology, as well as the expertise of others to get things done. You do not necessarily need to have an office base, you do not need to have a big car. Manage the resources you have by leveraging on the use of cloud computing and social media platforms that are available for free. And as your business grows, you can begin to incur cost that your business revenue can cater for,” the MainOne exec tells the forum.