Jagdish Mahapatra, Vice-President Commercial (West), Cisco India & SAARC
Small and medium-sized businesses in India today have unprecedented access to new markets, suppliers, and customers; it's truly a global marketplace today. They are constantly looking at shaping industry conditions and understanding total/ holistic solutions that their customers seek in order to help them pursue a quantum leap in value to dominate the market.
According to an AMI Partners report, there are more than 7.6 million SMBs in India and it is these companies that are taking the country's economic prowess to new highs. A report by FICCI and E&Y has thrown up an astonishing statistic which shows that for over half of the 46 deals (where Indian companies acquired US companies) in 2006-07, the acquisitions were made by the SMB sector. Hence, it is easy to see how increased competition and expansion have driven Indian SMBs to reach out for IT and the Internet as a basic infrastructural requirement for optimizing efficient operations/ businesses.
Until some time ago it was not uncommon to hear IT companies lament that SMBs did not want to invest in IT. Budgets were mainly being spent on applications and servers. Today that has radically changed and the SMB sector is in fact considered to be the growth driver for many IT companies. New-age SMBs are demanding more advanced technologies and access to the worldwide web. As these SMBs whet their appetite, the demand for video conferencing, IP telephony, Wi-fi and other technology will surge. As SMBs in India adopt technology and make it a part of their daily operations, it is important to bear in mind that their needs are often different from those of larger organizations.
SMBs have different needs
While SMBs benefit from solutions that are simple to install, use and maintain, they also benefit from solutions tailored specifically for their industry, from retail to real estate. That's where a value added re-seller or trusted technology partner that understands a specific industry and its unique business needs can help an SMB maximize the business value of its technology investments. For SMBs investing in one system that can handle many tasks, such as managing voice and data communications, wireless mobility, and integrated network security, would allow for lowering of capital expenditures. Moreover, consolidation eases operational expenses due to fewer network devices to install, configure, maintain, and update. Smaller companies are also less likely to have a dedicated IT staff to stay up to date with complex products or to train others. Additionally, SMB business leaders are usually most passionate about the core focus of their business, and don't have the time or inclination to learn about the inner workings of networked systems. That's why ease of installation, use, and management are absolutely essential for SMBs.
Security is a key concern as it is becomes a crucial element of the network. When networks grow in complexity especially managing numerous partners, suppliers, consultants, vendors and growing employees across various locations, SMBs need to focus on comprehensive security products and solutions. Irrespective of size, organizations face a need to protect their businesses against business interruption that takes place through theft of information, virus outbreak prevention, and application abuse with limited additional cost and manageability issues. According to the latest study by AMI Partners, Indian SMBs will spend $161 million on beefing up their IT security solutions this year which is 41 per cent higher over last years spends. SMBs should keep a few basic pointers in mind while planning their networks:
Need for SMB specific products and solutions