Friday, February 1, 2008

Growing business opportunities in SMB segment

The Indian Small and Medium Business segment (SMB) is fast being recognized as a sea of opportunities and newer revenue base by different businesses. Industries are investing in research to understand the needs and buying behavior of businesses in this segment and then creating customized services and products especially modeled to target the requirements of this segment.

The Telecom and IT industry for example have started to believe that SMBs have evolved quiet a bit and are ready to outsource their telecom and IT requirements. Generally large Fortune 500 companies have large IT/ITES spending capability and are able to outsource their requirement. The same appeals now to SMBs as well. The SMB customers if not individually, then in groups can be aggregated to a scale which usually Fortune 500 companies provide. This is also critical when small IT companies grow from say, 1 server to 40 server. With the help of a Managed Service Provider, a company can upgrade without any hassle. And SMBs generally need to upgrade faster as far as their infrastructure is concerned.

There are examples of industry leaders realigning their business strategies to meet the needs and gain wining lead in capturing the SMB business segment.

AIRTEL with a focus on small and medium businesses (SMBs) of India, has entered into an alliance with Nortel to offer comprehensive telecom and networking solutions. Under this initiative, Airtel would provide comprehensive solutions - fixed line, mobile, broadband, long distance, and data and managed services to SMBs. Airtel now have a separate vertical exclusively for the SMB segment. They estimate that Indian SMBs spend over $15 million on IT and telecom requirements every year. Moreover, less than 20 per cent of SMBs that own PCs have access to high speed internet and there is only one telephone line for every 4.7 employees among SMBs in India. This was reason enough for them to roll out special solutions tailor-made for this segment.

MICROSOFT and Bharti Airtel, have also entered into a strategic partnership that will offer a range of software and services for small and medium businesses (SMBs) in India. The partnership will begin by offering to Indian SMBs Microsoft Solutions for Hosted Messaging and Collaboration. It will also offer other hosted applications like CRM, Accounting, ERP, Unified Communications and select Microsoft ISV applications.

SAP INDIA is now looking for a greener pasture in India’s small and medium business (SMB) segment. The global major in enterprise wide business suite solutions plans to grow between 2.5-3 times more than the market in the SMB segment with its mySAP All-in-One solutions, according to Mr Srinivas Rao, director sales, small and midsize business. Out of the $50 million ERP software market in India, SMB segment’s contribution is $20 million which is about 40 per cent of the total market, according to industry sources.

NORTEL Networks, a global telecom and communications equipment maker, is bullish on the small and medium size business (SMB) segment in India. Recently it launched Business Communications Manager 50, which is an all-in-one platform for converged voice and data communications for SMBs. The BCM package is designed to give small businesses (with as few as three staff members) low-cost, advanced communication services. This includes Internet telephony and online multimedia applications. The package provides capabilities such as telephony, voice messaging and unified messaging (handling of voice, fax, and regular text messages as objects in a single mailbox that a user can access either with e-mail or by telephone), Internet Protocol (by which data is sent from one computer to another on the Internet) networking, Internet access, contact centres with skill-based routing and IP telephony.

ORACLE COPR. has its Accelerate partner solution factory is now running at full tilt, with the release of 49 new offerings in the past five months, bringing the total number to 90. Approximately 50 to 60 partners have developed these solutions under the Accelerate program, first introduced in October 2006 as a way of helping partners in Redwood Shores, Calif.-based Oracle’s Network bring industry-focused solutions to small and medium businesses (SMBs) and local governments without cutting corners on functionality. According to Oracle, many of the participating partners have come out with multiple solutions, and there are 200 additional partners currently going through the review process. The group has constituted a research team to understand the need of small businesses and their cost patterns suitable for SMB player’s business model.

The examples are many. And with almost all major players in IT and Telecom business spending sizable amounts to expand their presence in the SMB segment the future looks bright for the businesses. Their interest woyld be better served, focus would force players to provide latest technology to SMB players at affordable rate and competition will sure help to keep price under check. With the support functions getting closer to state of the art solutions available to industry leaders and solutions becoming affordable to these players, their growth path in their core business will have one more reason to grow skyhigh and contribute to the success story of India.

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