Interview | Unlike large firms, MSMEs seek simplistic, DIY tech for quick impact: Oracle’s Sheela Nambiar

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February 1, 2021 10:57 AM

Technology for MSMEs: 2021 is going to be a year of growth recovery. And to improve business resilience, some of the top priorities for MSMEs include reducing costs, increasing revenue, figuring out which routes to take to market, and improving process and operational efficiencies.

MSMEs value reliability, speed, and performance as key outcomes of their cloud journey.

Technology for MSMEs: The pandemic year has been a watershed moment for micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs). While Covid tailwinds helped digitally aware businesses to slingshot their existence from the offline or physical-first to the online or digital-first ecosystem, a significant share of enterprises in the vast MSME sector faced a tremendous operational crisis. Businesses are now gradually seeking to leverage the current landscape to build and expand their digital presence as a funnel to accelerate access to the potential customer base and addressable markets. “Indian MSMEs are amongst the more progressive ones when it comes to embracing new technology initiatives,” said Sheela Nambiar, SMB Business Head, Oracle India. In an interaction with Financial Express Online, Nambiar put Indian MSMEs in the global context with respect to technology adoption, talked about their data security concerns, digital bets they must make in 2021, and more. Edited excerpts below:

2020 was a landmark year for Indian MSMEs with regards to digital transformation. What has been the key learning?
It was an unprecedented year, and MSMEs were amongst the most affected, with their business resilience tested to the hilt. MSMEs that were fairly ahead in their digital journey were able to adapt faster to the new normal. But others that weren’t, found it extremely challenging to continue running their business sans disruptions. Indian MSMEs have now come to realize the need for a strong digital foundation to make their business more sustainable and successful.

How do Indian MSMEs fare vis-a-vis foreign peers in terms of new technology adoption?
In the APAC region, Indian MSMEs are amongst the more progressive ones when it comes to embracing new technology initiatives. Unlike large enterprises with vast resources for new technology rollout, training and development, MSMEs are preferring more simplistic, self-service (do-it-yourself type of) technology initiatives that make a quick and direct impact on their business. In this context, the cloud has been a great equalizer of sorts, with MSMEs gaining access to the very same enterprise-grade, secure, modern technologies that are available to a large enterprise. We are seeing a significant increase in the number of Indian MSMEs turning to the cloud for accelerating innovation, improving process efficiencies, reducing operational costs, and enhancing customer service.

While Oracle has an enterprise legacy, how critical is the MSME market for you particularly to accelerate your cloud growth?
We have been serving MSME customers very effectively for a number of years. Over 3 lakh MSME customers worldwide are using Oracle technologies to expand growth and productivity. So the MSME market is a high volume, high growth priority sector for us globally. In India, we are keenly focusing on the high potential MSME segment to further accelerate our cloud growth. Three years ago, we created a separate strategic business unit (SBU) within Oracle India – called Oracle Digital – to specifically cater to MSME customers. This was the first such initiative for Oracle within the JAPAC region. We have developed this SBU into a well-oiled growth engine for Oracle today. We are empowering MSMEs not just in metros, but even in Tier-II, III cities and beyond.

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Simplification of technology adoption has remained a key ask for MSMEs. How does Oracle align with this need?
MSMEs value reliability, speed, and performance as key outcomes of their cloud journey. Keeping this in mind, we have made it very easy for MSMEs to move to the cloud. We have a fairly simple contract process and migration mechanism. We work very closely with MSMEs to make their entire cloud journey smooth and seamless. Along with our strategic partners – who are specifically aligned to our MSME business – we are ensuring that MSMEs get all possible support at every stage of their cloud journey.

MSMEs are finding our price-performance proposition very compelling. In addition to the ‘pay as you go’ benefit that comes with the cloud, we also offer them the Oracle Universal Credits advantage. With just one, single contract, MSMEs get total flexibility of using any of our cloud services from our vast portfolio. They have total freedom of choice and can decide how and when they use a particular cloud service, and for what duration.

Which industry segments are witnessing faster cloud adoption among MSMEs?
We are seeing great uptake from edtech and content companies, which have a data-intensive business. We helped a leading OTT provider perform deeper analytics on consumer sentiment, behaviour, to aid the creation of new product offerings faster. In the manufacturing space, we are helping a number of MSMEs move their business-critical applications to the cloud. We helped a customer implement scrap analytics to reduce wastage and improve profitability. In the BFSI space, we see a number of MSMEs move their key applications such as core banking and loan management systems to the cloud. We supported a customer with a blockchain solution for a smart contract management system.

But there are concerns around data security. Has it been tough to assuage doubts MSMEs may have?
We have a proven track record of securely managing the bulk of the world’s data for more than four decades. For us, security is integrated into everything we do. Ultimately, we want our customers to spend less time and effort on IT management and instead focus more on core business growth. Our generational innovation, the Oracle Autonomous Database – the world’s first and only fully self-driving, self-securing, and self-repairing database – helps MSMEs do just that. By eliminating human errors and helping them put their data to better business use via advanced analytics, MSMEs can accelerate the insights-to-decisions cycle significantly. Further, our second-generation cloud infrastructure is the most secure cloud platform in the market today. We have made available two second-generation cloud regions in India, spread across two different seismic zones (in Mumbai and Hyderabad) to help MSMEs fully adhere to data residency norms as well as aid better disaster recovery.

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What are the key 2021 challenges MSMEs cite and what technology bets are of priority for them currently?
2021 is going to be a year of growth recovery. And to improve business resilience, some of the top priorities for MSMEs include reducing costs, increasing revenue, figuring out which routes to take to market, and improving process and operational efficiencies. A number of MSMEs are adopting a mix of multi-cloud and hybrid IT strategies to take advantage of the best that each technology provider offers. New customer acquisition, personalization are areas that MSMEs want to get better at. Effective collaboration and remote work is another key focus for MSMEs, as they continue to look for reliable, cost effective solutions for video conferencing, online learning, virtual desktops, and the like. MSMEs are also investing in multi-channel solutions including AI-powered digital assistant (or chatbots as they are popularly referred to) services to enable a better customer experience.

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