Digitalisation for Startups & SMEs: A Necessity or A Financial Burden?
The COVID-19 pandemic which hit our shores earlier this year has threatened all our livelihoods. Startups and even established companies have had to close down or were close to halting their operations. It's in these uncertain times where the question of the companies’ survival remains, will adopting digitalisation save them or would it be an unnecessary financial burden?
What’s certain is, the pandemic has changed the way we live. School teachers now have to learn how to teach digitally, food vendors cannot rely on physical businesses alone and brick-and-mortar stores have to consider going digital on a website or social media platforms. For many of us, working from home while juggling our children’s school schedule is now a norm. While it's not an easy road (imagine chairing a virtual meeting while dealing with a child’s tantrum), this is what’s best for all of us now.
I must say while some may hesitate to digitalise, we cannot deny it is certainly vital for long-term sustainability. This is true even for anyone who has just kicked-off their entrepreneurship journey. On Instagram, how many of your friends started a business just from their social media profile? I’m sure there’s a handful, right? My point is, a simple act of selling on Instagram is also a step towards digitalisation.
As a leading Cloud Service Provider, our goal here at Exabytes is to help SMEs all over Southeast Asia to kickstart and grow their businesses through digital transformation. This goal is one that we share with the Malaysian government as they have long seen the potential of digitalisation and its contribution to our digital economy. One of the many government agencies which advocates towards leading Malaysia’s digital economy forward is Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC). With a focus to digitally power businesses, upskilling and reskilling Malaysian talents, many startups and companies have benefited from their programmes and initiatives. Even SME Corp, an agency under the Ministry of Entrepreneur Development and Cooperatives (MEDAC) has been entrusted to accelerate the ecommerce adoption among SMEs and entrepreneurs.
For us at Exabytes, the core of our business has always been digitalisation. With the launch of our Sama-Sama Digital initiative earlier this August, we aim to accelerate digitalisation for Bumiputera SMEs affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. With our affordable digital solutions offerings, we hope it could be a stepping stone for SMEs to jump on the digitalisation bandwagon. We realised that some SMEs and companies have delayed digitalisation due to the cost involved upfront and sadly, we have heard comments that it is a huge financial commitment for them to take on. Here’s where we want to change that mindset, by guiding these SMEs on their digitalisation journey at a fraction of the cost.
A good example of Sama-Sama Digital’s success story is LLORA Bath & Body, a local bath and body care company specializing in handmade products sourced from Australia. LLORA experienced a decline in sales during the COVID-19 outbreak and was in need of digital solutions. Through Exabytes, LLORA was able to set up their website equipped with a payment gateway and shipping system to improve the shopping experience for customers. Since their website was up and running, LLORA was reported to have seen a 40% surge in sales since the launch of their digital journey.
The benefits of digitalisation outweighs its drawbacks with studies conducted by the University Consortium of Malaysia which found that the usage of digital technologies would significantly improve SME productivity. SMEs with usage of social media experienced a 26% increase in productivity while those who engaged in ecommerce saw productivity increase by 27%. In addition, studies from Huawei Technologies also show that the application of advanced digital technologies such as data management solutions could increase SME productivity by up to 60%.
From my point of view, I second the findings above because digitalisation will open up many new doors and possibilities. So, let’s dive in deeper on why I think digital solutions and digital transformation will benefit your company in many different ways:
- To Avoid Economic Halt
Digitalisation has been seen to have successfully increased the quality of life as it reduces the risk of an economic halt. Digitalisation has provided employment opportunities for the unemployed as well as an increase in value and productivity for the company itself.
- To Reduce Operating Costs
Working digitally will lower the operating costs of a company through a decrease in the number of employees needed. This subsequently reduces management costs as physical management is no longer necessary and cloud storage is the main data, information and infrastructure storage for a company.
- To Standardize and Automate Business Processes
The smart usage of technology and the internet will enable companies to work more efficiently and effectively through a standardised process. Information and data can be safely stored online and will be readily available to extract when needed through various devices.
- To Enhance Competitiveness
The digitalisation of companies will enhance competitiveness with other companies. Competitiveness will assure you that your product is of good value and quality. Enhancing competitiveness will also ensure you that your SME and startup will be able to sustain long term.
- A Way to Understand Consumer Behaviour
Digital transformation will help you and your company understand consumer behaviour even better through thorough research and data analysis. Being able to understand consumer behaviour is the comprehension of what influences your consumers into buying a certain product or service as well as their desires and expectations when investing in a certain product.
Changing the way you run a business by digitally transforming it to cater to the present economic situation will enhance the productivity in the company as well as in the customer satisfaction because your company is updated to consumers’ needs and preferences. With the existence of social media platforms, digital marketing and technologically-advanced systems, startups are able to use these to their advantage as customers are now more comfortable transacting online and through digital platforms.
The new normal has forced us to adapt to digitalisation. Thoroughly planning your startup’s digital transformation is essential and it’s even more essential to start it now. It is without a doubt a necessary process to undertake during a time like this to remain competitive, sustain your operations and recover from the impacts of the pandemic. - DagangNews.com
Chan Kee Siak is the Founder and CEO of Exabytes Group. He started Exabytes at 19 years old after discovering the potential of web hosting. Under his leadership, today the Exabytes Group consists of 12 subsidiaries, with businesses ranging from web hosting to eCommerce and eDeliveries, serving over 140,000 businesses with over 1 million users in 121 countries. Chan is also co-founder of EasyParcel, EasyStore, EasyWork, EasySpace and an angel investor in several startups.