Why SMEs need to get over language barrier to slingshot digital growth

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Updated: July 30, 2019 6:51:59 PM

India being predominantly a multilingual country with 22 major languages, the primary concern for small businesses in adapting digital solution is the language.

As per the Sixth Economic Census (2013), 580 lakh businesses were found to be in operation

The Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) sector in India contributes significantly to the country’s economic and social development. According to the Central Statistics Office (CSO), Ministry of Statistics & Programme Implementation, the share of MSME Sector in the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is 40 per cent. Moreover, as per the National Sample Survey on Manufacturing, Trade and Other Services Sectors says that SME Sector has an estimated number of 634 lakhs enterprises. As per the Sixth Economic Census (2013), 580 lakh businesses were found to be in operation. Out of which, 340 lakhs businesses (59.48 per cent) were found in rural areas.

However, “unfortunately, one of the aspects holding down the SME sector in tier-II and III is their age-old inefficient methods of operating business and their inertia to adopt the technology. Easing this situation will go a long way in nurturing and sustaining SMEs,” Sumit Agarwal, Co-founder, Vyapar — a business accounting and inventory management application for SMEs told Financial Express Online.

India being predominantly a multilingual country with 22 major languages, the primary concern for small businesses in adapting digital solution is the language. Especially tier-II and tier-III towns are not an English-driven market. “Most of the users want content, communication and commerce in their mother-tongue and without typing,” said Agarwal. Apart from language barriers, challenges in getting rural SMEs onboard is their lower level of literacy and requires hand-holding at every step.

“With lesser social media reach, they need offline intermediaries that leads to a higher acquisition cost. Difficulty in payment collection is also observed with such consumers,” he said. As SMEs are a geographically scattered market, there’s always a difficulty in understanding their taste and preference. Practically, it requires an intensive selling effort to tier-II and tier-III consumers who are tradition-bound in business and are hesitant to adopt technology because they have serious concerns with data security.

“They refuse to maintain digitally copy of their data as they think it will easily fall into the wrong hands. Cost is also a major deciding factor when it comes to technology adoption in rural areas. Many SMEs feel software are too expensive to own. They also dread thinking about the effort that goes into learning and using the software. Very few SMEs in tier-II and III cities are open-minded about technology adoption and the evident ease it can bring into their business. Unfortunately, no business Apps are addressing these issues efficiently so far,” said Agarwal who claimed to have 67% of its users from these cities and the first Hindi-based Business accounting App. Currently, 20% of Vyapar App users have chosen Hindi as their App language. The company’s top four cities in terms of user traction are Nagpur, Rajkot, Surat and Solapur.

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