‘The master key, the catalyst, and the magic drug’ for SMEs (small and medium enterprises) is information technology (IT) avers Vineet Bajpai in ‘The Street to the Highway’ (www.jaicobooks.com). For, behind the transformation of traditionally slow family businesses into value-creating modern outfits, French and Italian designers targeting Japanese customers without opening stores in Tokyo, global travellers booking a room in Agra without the help of a travel agent, mid-sized businesses hiring only one accounting professional instead of the usual three earlier, and people manufacturing mobile phone covers becoming millionaires, what Bajpai finds is one fundamental driver – IT.
Big vs small
In the author’s view, IT has made as much an impact on SMEs as in the case of larger enterprises. As examples, he mentions how while large companies use ERP the smaller companies have seamlessly moved to user-friendly accounting software; and how the big enterprises have connected global offices through virtual private networks while small companies use the Internet to reach out to millions of international buyers. And even as the biggies invest in enormous CRM (customer relationship management) applications and set up server farms, the micro businesses are using simple software to create customer profile databases, and the young entrepreneur of today carries a laptop!
So, the one clear message is that technology is not and should not be looked upon as the playground of some techno-savvy modern professionals, but as something that is an inevitable new force in our business dynamics, Bajpai urges the business beginners. “If you use it well it could prove to be the greatest step you ever took and give you return on investment that you never imagined. If you miss it, it could push you behind by several laps vis-à-vis your competitors.”
The book advocates a ‘simple assessment and navigation chart to initiate technology implementation’ or the SANCTITI model, addressing the four pillars of the organisation’s workflow, viz. sales and marketing, operations and internal processes, finance and accounts, and vital support functions in the form of human resources and administration. For each of these, the author lists ‘simple and affordable IT enabled solutions’ such as online banking and electronic invoicing in the ‘finance and accounts’ category; and website creation and maintenance, and digital marketing in the ‘sales and marketing’ category.
Guiding the small entrepreneur through a ‘layman’s IT audit’ for the company by evaluating strengths and weaknesses under each category and then choosing the applications that will be of help in the immediate and foreseeable terms, the author highlights the many ‘fashionable by-products’ that technology deployment can bring in. “For example, employee swipe cards for entry into your premises is not a big expense. However, apart from the numerous other main benefits, the corporate quotient that it adds to your company’s internal branding is quite significant.”
Recommended study for the eager SME player.