Digital Transformation for SMEs – an Update from the Dare to Dream Awards 2022.

Digitalization continues to play a key role in unlocking new growth for Indian businesses, helping India realize its vision of becoming a developed nation. For SMEs in particular, this holds much promise even as there are apprehensions about investment and upskilling.

The Dare to Dream Awards Ceremony in Mumbai featured an engaging conversation on ‘Digital Transformation Powering India's March to 2047’. The esteemed panellists included Rajeev Singh (Vice President, Midmarket and Emerging Business, SAP Indian Subcontinent), Rahul Mishra (Partner, Kearney) and Sucheta Shah (Executive Director, Atlas Integrated Finance Ltd.). The panel discussion was moderated by R. Sridharan (Managing Editor, TV9 Kannada).

Rajeev Singh set the stage by defining digital transformation as translating a promoter’s vision into reality, primarily through 3 broad themes – reaching global markets, operating uninterruptedly, ensuring a seamless experience to employees, customers and suppliers.

When asked about the optimal digital roadmap for small and medium enterprises, Rahul Mishra opined that post pandemic, businesses are no longer looking for big bang investments. He said the approach should be, “What are my key strength areas, where do I want to prioritize, and what should be a phased investment to do that.”

Sucheta Shah brought in the aspect of digital literacy, suggesting that ease of doing business should also include ease of operating the software – which translates to training, handholding and support when you need it. In her words, “Digital transformation is very important, but with a human touch.”

R. Sridharan brought an observation about cash being the crunch when it comes to digital investment. He said, “The reality for most SMEs is that they are scrambling to raise money to keep themselves going and grow.” Rajeev Singh responded by pointing to the shift in mindset that’s required – from seeing digital transformation as an investment eating into profits, to an opportunity that allows you to quickly compete with larger players in the market.

The shift to digital has also done away with some other legacy modes of thinking, for example that knowledge flows only from top to bottom in an organizational hierarchy. Speaking about this, Rahul Mishra called it reverse coaching and training with young digital literates taking the lead. He gave an interesting example of a Navratna company, where a blockchain-based solution was initiated by a fresh graduate.

A pertinent question was posed regarding how future-ready technologies like automation could impact jobs in the SME sector, to which Rajeev Singh replied, “Digitalization is actually helping them to repurpose the headcount for a better return.”

Steering the discussion expertly, R. Sridharan raised an important point on the multiplier effect of technology, taking the example of the financial services industry. He spoke about how technology can make compliance easier, and simplify the process of raising funds.

Summing up by tackling the core idea of the session – SMEs powering India’s vision, Rajeev Singh highlighted 3 focus areas. Digitalization, breaking global barriers, and digital skilling that can allow small enterprise to scale to medium enterprises and so on.

To know more about the transformation journey for Indian SMEs, the multi-faceted impact of digital, and other interesting insights, please go through the event recording from the Grand Awards Ceremony.

Watch the video