By Sumana Iyengar
Technology for MSMEs: The pandemic has facilitated a lot of people to turn entrepreneurs, including women, who are already making their presence felt as successful and innovative disruptors. However, they are faced with double the challenges than their male counterparts. And while there is an increasing number of industry bodies, banks, NGOs, and women empowerment councils that are working towards enabling and encouraging women entrepreneurs, the help is generally limited to providing them better access to funding, networking, and mentorship for business skills. However, there is little support for women entrepreneurs when it comes to digital literacy and technology adoption.
Even as businesses and supporting infrastructure are increasingly adopting digitization, smaller entrepreneurs, especially women, continue to face challenges with technology. Be it from accessing banking services to adopting digital transformation services to enhance and optimize their business efficiency, women entrepreneurs face more challenges. The worst hit are women business owners in inner cities and rural areas who also must fight societal gender barriers. These women entrepreneurs need specialized tech assistance in areas like:
1) Financial technology
Specialized assistance in financial technology like integration with payment gateways, app-based payments and links, cyber security, and data protection. Not many company owners have the good fortune to have a financier or investor for their enterprise. Some have to raise money on their own, use credit cards, or bootstrap their businesses. Women-owned firms rank among the most common enterprises that receive little funding. Due to cultural and gender prejudices, women are frequently rejected loans—many institutions prefer to support male-owned firms.
2) Cloud computing and data storage, analysis and privacy
Data management in the traditional sense, through data centers, is not only a high expense but also restrictive in access. With wider tech adoption, unconventional methods like remote working are becoming a norm. And cloud computing is increasingly proving both an efficient and cost-effective option not just for data storage but also for seamless, secure and customized data sharing and overall data management. Among start-ups and MSMEs, its additional advantage is the low or minimal capex it offers, thus helping in reducing costs.
3) Modernization of legacy applications
Building the right foundations with modern infrastructure will allow women entrepreneurs to maintain a competitive edge and leverage the new opportunities ahead in their businesses, which will boost significantly in the advent of 5G. Application Modernization and Optimization, in alignment with 5G, can help in continuous business innovation; no longer constrained by physical limitations in a fully virtualized environment, where one can rapidly deploy applications across data centres, clouds, and devices from anywhere, and also accelerate business growth through shorter release to market time. This allows one to build efficiency over the long run, stay ahead of the competition and acquire more customers.
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4) Technology training and skill development
With the help of technology expertise (bot leadership and technical expertise) women entrepreneurs can enjoy a competitive advantage, it will also act as a driver of business results. The best method for upgrading technology teams’ abilities is technology skill development through upskilling and reskilling workshops. Many tech companies can build custom LMS which will train the staff related to their industry and domain.
5) Business process automation and optimization of technology processes
Business process automation, when implemented and assisted correctly, has produced good results that go beyond simple process improvement to encompass process excellence. This is made feasible through automation, which removes the need for manual labour and effectively and efficiently completes process activities.
6) New product development
With the right expert by your side, any new product can be developed with ease and in time. Starting from ideation, UI/UX, development and release process, many tech companies can quickly assess and build MVP for funding. Post funding these companies can further enhance and maintain the product. They do act as an extended team to the core team.
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7) Building online portals and mobile applications
Today all businesses, big or small have their presence through online portals and mobile applications. Building your online presence will help in improving your brand visibility and creating a strong digital identity, improve customer engagement, enhance awareness, and act as a gateway of communication between internal and external customers. For women entrepreneurs who are new to the business, adequately building a digital presence on your own or through the help of an unqualified friend or staff, may not only prove ineffective but can also backfire. Hence, the right expert to guide and help build a cost-effective and efficient digital identity is crucial, especially for a new business.
Connected women, empowered with access to technology processes, are key to a country’s economic growth. Women represent half the world’s population and half of its potential to grow, create opportunities, and build an economically resilient society.
Sumana Iyengar is the CEO & Co-Founder of Goavega Software. Views expressed are the author’s own.