Harsh Pokharna

Co-founder & Chief Executive Officer, OkCredit

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The Digital Revolution Requires Skills Revolution For MSMEs To Thrive

India is home to more than 6.5 crore MSMEs who will need to embrace digitization to make the country a trillion-dollar digital economy.

Skills are playing an ever-increasing role in the technology-driven world we live in. It has become a decisive factor for the success of individuals and organisations. This makes it imperative to focus on skill development along with digitisation, as skills will be a necessary precondition to stride through the digital landscape.

Skilling and upskilling are more relevant for SMBs (Small and Medium Businesses) as it can ensure not just growth and relevance but also survival in the face of an onslaught from big tech giants. Small businesses have faced the brunt of the Covid pandemic which has affected their cash flows, debt servicing capability, among others. This has made upskilling in the new normal of falling consumer demand and shifts to online platforms more relevant for SMBs to make the most of the evolving situation.

The perception that MSMEs do not care for digitisation and are operations focussed does not hold water. There are enough examples to prove that small merchants are equally excited to adopt digital tools that can help them improve business efficiency. And it is not rocket science to understand the reasons behind their eagerness to embrace digital business solutions.

Small retailers are witnessing rapid disruption in the way business is conducted by the likes of Amazon, Jio, Dunzo, Swiggy on one hand and a bunch of fintech companies on the other. These companies are promising everything from faster payments to easier credit and competing with such companies is no mean task.

There is a greater realization among small merchants that learning, and upskilling are the only ways to compete with large and organized businesses. Fortunately, this is now possible with umpteen numbers of courses that could open doors for their participation in government schemes, simplifying funding and access issues. These courses range from tapping into the export market, business process automation, digital marketing, e-commerce adoption, and fundraising.

The technology requirement of MSMEs in India is powered by a strong ecosystem of technology start-ups. These tech start-ups are creating innovative digital solutions for the under-served MSME sector.

Digital startups are helping small businesses to create awareness, plan, and implement new solutions. They are offering digital business solutions that are easy to understand, ensure 100% safety, security, and accuracy of merchant data, and focus on solving a particular business problem. MSMEs that have undergone a digital transformation to keep pace with the fast-evolving ecosystem have been able to ensure better adaptability and survivability of their business amid pandemics.

This is not all. Technology startups have taken it upon themselves to upskill MSME owners to facilitate the adoption of digital business solutions. They are promoting the digital transformation of small businesses through their online and offline skilling programs aimed at equipping small business owners with skills that can make them competitive.

Business training for small entrepreneurs in India has got a massive boost with the rise of the education-technology (edtech) sector in India. The sector is playing a critical role in the upskilling of the workforce in the MSME sector.

Edtech companies are offering online courses across data sciences, cloud solutions, digital marketing, and more to play an ever-increasing role in meeting the digital skill enhancement needs of SMBs. These companies through their customized training programs are catering to learners’ skill requirements and learning goals. Further, the online training platforms of these edtech firms benefit from the best practices of leading global institutions to deliver non-traditional skills like problem-solving and complex decision-making.

E-commerce platforms are not far behind in harnessing the power of technology to enhance the skills of small entrepreneurs and support the digital transformation of their businesses. Leading e-commerce firms in India have devised customized programs and practices for small entrepreneurs to help them become more competitive, achieve higher levels of business growth, and become more resilient in today’s dynamic business environment. Also, leading social media platforms and technology product companies are devising SME and MSME focussed programs aimed to update small merchants with the developments in the business technology space.

Governmental agencies and industry associations have emerged as key enablers in the rapid digital adoption among MSMEs. They have come up with several initiatives and policies to encourage the skill enhancement of small merchants. Trade and ICT policies framed by the government are aimed at encouraging digital adoption among small businesses. The development of Technology Centers (TCs) across the country to assist MSME ventures to access advanced technologies is a laudable step by the Ministry of MSMEs. These centers give technical advisory support to MSMEs besides undertaking technical skill development of youths to ensure the availability of skilled labor to SMBs.

India is home to more than 6.5 crore MSMEs who will need to embrace digitization to make the country a trillion-dollar digital economy. Equipping small merchants with new skills and updating them with relevant digital tools is the best way to support the adoption of new technologies and enable SMBs to navigate the complex and ever-evolving business environment.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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