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Technology is key to SME success – choosing the right partner is vital

Telkom Business partnered with Business Day to host SME’s at the Blaze with Telkom Business Conference, tailored specifically for SMEs eager to embrace the digital revolution and connect with other like-minded trail blazers hosted by seasoned broadcaster, Rams Mabote. The event was specifically focused on bridging the digital divide utilising innovative tech that is commensurate to small businesses that are looking to grow, innovate & Blaze new trails in their businesses.

Technology continues to transform the business environment, and offers SMEs new ways to improve how they do business and reach new markets. Speaking after a joint Business Day TV and Telkom Business event to highlight the role that technology can play in helping SMEs compete, Makgosi Mabaso, Managing Executive: Home and Business Solutions at Telkom Business said that technology was both an opportunity and a challenge for SMEs.

“Technology is changing rapidly, and SMEs need to be able to navigate the digital landscape in order to position themselves for growth,” she says. “Digital transformation is a process not an event, and it requires finding a knowledgeable partner to help chart the right course—a role that Telkom Business is well equipped to fulfil.”

Mabaso points out that e-commerce is expanding rapidly in South Africa, with a projected revenue of $7.2 billion this year, followed by a 150% increase to R225 billion in 2025. However, only a relatively small percentage of SMEs are positioned to take advantage of the opportunities of this growing market. Only 32% of South African SMEs are ready for innovation, and only 35% are prepared for disruption—unsurprisingly, then, only 20% of them use e-commerce regularly.

The end result, Mabaso says, is that SMEs are failing to take their share of the potential R225 billion e-commerce market. Becoming more digital means that SMEs can lower costs and acquire customers more easily, while simplifying and automating repetitive and error-prone tasks. Furthermore, a digital enterprise can respond much more rapidly and easily to changing market circumstances, and launch products and services more quickly. Digital SMEs can also leverage online networks and resources (such as peer-to-peer lending, training, recruitment and government services).

“But digital transformation is not just a matter of using technology. You start with converting all your data from analogue into digital, then you start leveraging digital products in order to make what you are doing simpler, faster and cheaper,” she says. “The real benefits only come when you are able to digitally transform, which means changing what you are doing in order to seize new opportunities.”

Speaking in one of the panel discussions, Lunga Siyo, CEO: Telkom Consumer and Small Business, said that government had a key role to play in providing SMEs with the infrastructure they need to compete in a digital world.

The country’s Internet infrastructure needs to be expanded, especially in rural and underserved areas—SMEs need reliable and affordable access to the digital economy.

Providing training in digital skills and creating support networks for SMEs were other areas where government can play a role.

“Funding is a perennial challenge for SMEs, so financial assistance and low-interest loans are critical, perhaps as a collaboration between government and the private sector,” he adds. “Tech companies also have a role to play—tools and platforms that are genuinely user-friendly will greatly enable SMEs to enter, and compete in, the digital economy.”

Digital transformation is complex process full of challenges, concludes Mabaso. “SMEs are notoriously short of both time and resources. The right partner can make all the difference.”