In the Coming Years, There Will Be No Non-Digital Business: Arundhati Bhattacharya The Salesforce India chairperson and chief executive officer believes COVID-19 has shown that SMEs need to embrace digital transformation to become more resilient

By Prabhjeet Bhatla

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Even as the COVID-19 pandemic exacts a bitter toll on the economy, it is catalyzing digital transformation across business models, channels and touch points. Underlying this shift is the need for greater organizational agility as well as closer ties with customers in a changing world order. The process of digital transformation, however, is complex and long-drawn-out for businesses as well as consumers.

Coronavirus crisis is unprecedented for all and its economic impact will linger for businesses for a long time. For the current situation, a concrete risk management approach, innovation in products, and implementing technological tools are significant measures. Through this, an organization can identify, prioritize, manage and respond effectively to risks.

Salesforce India chairperson and chief executive officer Arundhati Bhattacharya during a webinar organized by Entrepreneur India discussed the changing needs for small businesses to adapt digital transformation in order to stay alive, the various ways and options available, and long-term trends likely to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.

SMEs as the epicenter of crisis

The catastrophic pandemic caused by COVID-19 has brought small and medium enterprises' (SMEs) operations to a near standstill. From social distancing to sealed borders, businesses are suffering hardships in the form of loss of workforce, daily cash flows, managing purchases, employing dead stock and procurement with the added payment delays. The current scenario of the global lockdown will decline customer retention as more and more consumers switch to digital options.

Going digital is now a fundamental requisite rather than an alternative in the new normal. It is now that SMEs should overcome fear of change due to digital transformation and reap the benefits of using digital commerce for enhancing customer experience and optimizing business processes.

Bhattacharya believes, "If you can paint the picture for the future then you need to try and prioritize those few innovations which will give you maximum value."

Amidst foreign and national competitors, the key for long-term sustainment for a company is to outperform customer expectations in terms of customer experience. By going digital, organizations have been able to enhance the consumer experience by suggesting the right products, at the right time, for the right usage using digital marketing strategies. The omnichannel presence eases the accessibility of products by providing a seamless experience and opens doors for potential customers across geographical borders.

Digital transformation will help provide personalized buying experiences to users across generations and geographies and help generate purchase orders for dead stock in warehouses. Real-time digital payment options will provide a relief to the seller and the consumers as the user can pay as and when possible within seconds for the order made.

"We don't need a transformation which needs a huge amount of capex. So you can to ensure that you need to computerize your entire system without a huge amount of capex. It's basically a different way of doing things to stay alive during these times and beyond that," she further adds.

Seeing the changing dynamics due to technology or due to pandemic situation, this is an opportune time for SMEs to take a progressive step towards digitalization. To sustain in this new world of social distancing and contactless experiences, going digital does not seem like an alternative but in fact a fundamental requisite for organizations worldwide.

Rethinking technology and innovation: digital accelerator for business

To recover and thrive in the new normal of a COVID-19 world, business leaders are focusing on leveraging technology and digital. Using cellphones, laptops, computers, websites and cloud services is now common place, but we need to understand what functions they are using them for and to what extent they are integrated into their business operations.

During these times, a technology that provides the foundation for any transformation initiative such as an app or software would be a key to success. Organizations that can modernize tools on their own will see their chances of success increase. Companies seeking to thrive in this digital world should also make way for tech-savvy leadership, modern app or software development processes, and modern developer tools.

"Technology is the backbone of many new things; we backup our new ideas in technology. In order to give you that reach, productivity, efficiency and ability to put in all the information and make something productive out of it. The reliance on data and digital is huge whether they are in health, logistics or manufacturing," she affirms.

In order to do take advantage of this time, we need to get your mindset out of the swamp and start building a culture of continuous innovation.

"Our country is extremely innovative. My suggestion for our entrepreneurs in India is that if you can solve for India, solving for the rest of the world is far easier," Bhattacharya said.

In the coming years, it is possible that no one will speak of "digital transformation" because the term will have become irrelevant: non-digital businesses will simply not exist. To avoid becoming one of those dying businesses, business leaders must take the opportunity—and a pressing need—to invest in bold and purposeful digital transformations now.

Prabhjeet Bhatla

Former Staff

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