Monday, 31 Aug 2020


Innovation is necessary for growth.

In the new normal, however, many businesses are aiming for survival, while growth takes a backseat on the strategic agenda.

The new normal foisted on economies, a result of an unexpected global viral pandemic, has resulted in an uncertain business landscape across the globe in mature, developing and emerging markets alike, where large corporations in sectors previously thought shock-proof against downturns, are struggling.

What more, then, for small and medium-sized enterprises?

SMEs, as they are termed, make up a large part of the Malaysian economy and contributed up to 38% of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product in 2016 (source: Department of Statistics Malaysia). The majority of these SMEs, 89%, operate in the service sector, numbering over 800,000 businesses, while other SMEs operate in the manufacturing and construction sectors, comprising over 40,000 and 39,000 businesses respectively.

The new normal has highlighted acutely the stark realisation that digital transformation is necessary as consumers wholly embrace and adapt to new ways of consuming. Just the example of online grocery shopping, necessitated by enforced social distancing, is sufficient to drive home the benefits of digital transformation of a business for survival and growth.

We explore what SMEs now face in terms of challenges, and the technological solutions to be considered, to help them survive the new normal with some measure of confidence, and hopefully, provide the boost for future growth.


Facing New Challenges

In any business of any size, a key goal is the optimisation of resources and processes to yield maximum output at the lowest possible cost. That goal in itself is a challenge; it is a precursor to the next challenge, which is growth.

With the new normal, this challenge of operations optimisation has evolved to revolve around the central question of how a business can increase productivity while managing costs effectively.

For example, as a result of lower consumer demand during lockdowns and changing consumer sentiment, SMEs such as restaurants, independent retailers and travel agencies (to name but a few) have been forced to execute layoffs and redundancies in manpower. Others institute salary cuts as a buffer measure to delay the inevitable in the event of prolonged lockdowns or new gazetted operating restrictions.

With fewer human resources at hand, or worker morale dampened, how then can an SME increase productivity so as to remain relevant, be ready to meet consumer demand and still be agile enough to respond should market conditions evolve yet again?

The answer can be found in solutions built on technology, specifically, digital solutions, that not only help make your business processes more efficient, but can also, in cases, reduce your day-to-day costs.


Digital Solutions At Hand 

With the plethora of digital technologies available in the market currently, it is becoming easier to transform an SME business while keeping an eye on your costs management.

Digitalisation, as a business solution, encompasses products and services that can be applied to key business areas, primarily, digital marketing and sales, electronic point-of-sales (POS) systems, human resource (HR) and payroll systems, procurement and finance.

In its most basic definition, digitalisation is simply the use of digital technologies to revamp, renovate or transform a business model (in ways that include creating opportunities for new revenue streams and increased value creation). 

In short, having the business transition from analog or manual processes or systems to a business that now uses digital or automated processes or systems for efficiency, enhanced workflows or even to create new products or services.

Such digital solutions can take the form of -- among others -- e-commerce solutions, which, in broad layman terms, is a digital and online business tool, fashioned as an accessible platform to help a producer or seller sell his or her product or service online instead of a physical retail presence.

Digitalisation allows SMEs to reach more customers in a more connected world in more accessible ways, especially in international markets thanks to digital solutions such as e-commerce platforms.

For businesses that export goods, utilising an e-commerce platform can potentially bring about a multi-fold increase in the number of exported goods.

Examples of pioneering e-commerce platforms are Amazon and Alibaba, while in Malaysia e-commerce solutions such as Avana by Celcom Business provide a powerful social-commerce solution that enables SME business owners to launch their e-commerce site with an easy-to-use platform. It is a complete, simple solution, especially for a retail SME, that wants to generate income by using a mobile commerce application that simplifies the selling and buying processes online.

An additional digital solution that can help SMEs survive the new normal is location-based advertising, which allows a business to send the right message to pools of potential customers at key moments.

Furthermore, the adoption of digital location-based advertising allows SME business owners to flash attention-grabbing, engaging and contextually-relevant ads via a simple technology that derives data from a user’s mobile device. With this place-based information, businesses then tailor their digital ads placement based on time and location.

This works especially well when a retail business or a cafe or restaurant has a seasonal promotion or campaign.

These cost-enhancing digital solutions go hand-in-hand with digital tools that increase productivity. As mentioned earlier, in the new normal, businesses have to do more with fewer resources.

A digital resource that allows business owners to do more is the Microsoft 365 Suite, designed to help you be productive when you are on-the-go. This tool allows mobile usage of its applications, meaning, you needn’t be tied to a desk or a desktop computer to experience the full power of this digital tool.

Microsoft 365 allows you as a business owner to collaborate when you’re on the move, thanks to applications such as Outlook for your email requirements, OneDrive for multi-device file storage and access, as well as the necessary tools such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint and SharePoint and Microsoft Teams, the latter being an essential tool when face-to-face meetings are suspended in favour of socially-distant video-conferencing.

Tools such as these -- e-commerce, place-based advertising for mobile devices and complete suites of mobile applications that are as powerful on your mobile device as they are on desktop computers -- are the solutions that SMEs need to consider as economies and consumers adapt to the new normal.


Achieve More With Less  

Tools such as Microsoft 365 allow all team members in an SME business to work seamlessly and productively. Productivity can be refined and enhanced so that you may achieve the same goals and targets or even reach new targets and benchmarks.


Analog or manual processes slow down operations when multiple team members are caught in communications gaps, lack of access to information and even time wasted in physical meetings.

Utilising a suite of applications that allow easy file creation, file sharing and more that can be synchronised with an email platform allows team members to be connected, freeing up resources and energy to focus on generating value for the business.

And speaking of value generation, utilising digital platforms as a way to enhance traditional retail outlets or a retail presence helps the business to reach out to more customers. There are numerous instances where traditional small good retailers, such as those often found in bazaars and markets, have adapted to the new normal by using social media to advertise their wares.

SME businesses can take this one step further with a professional platform that connects the business with regional and global markets, thereby widening the potential for increased numbers of customers.

In tandem with place-based advertising, an SME business can grow in its digital transformation.

Businesses that transform their processes and operations in a digital fashion where consumer spending is growing steadily, especially in the Asia-Pacific region. Figures from reports point to a steady increase in e-commerce spending by consumers in the region since 2017. The market value of cross-border merchandise commerce via e-commerce platforms is estimated to stand at USD900 billion worldwide currently, while in Malaysia, government reports predict the value of online retail to achieve RM200 billion worth in this decade, accounting for a fifth of GDP.

With consumer sentiment and appetite for e-commerce growing, an SME stands to profit handsomely from transforming the business into a digital-ready business.

Talk to Celcom for your business digital transformation needs and solutions, and grow the business in the new normal with assuredness of expert help.

Check out Celcom HR Biz Suite for more information about the product.