The National Development Plan (NDP) sets some aggressive goals for Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in South Africa, including a target for the sector to create 90% of employment opportunities by 2030.
One of the major financial challenges facing startups in South Africa, as well as Africa, is the required investment in technology, and it is important for business owners to learn how to allocate their budget effectively, in order to ensure their enterprise remains competitive.
This is according to Ambarish Gupta, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Knowlarity, who says in business, technology is what helps the Davids compete against the Goliaths. “It empowers small business owners to scale operations in a cost effective manner. It transforms traditional business models and levels the playing field. Innovation must be taken seriously and as Darwin said, it is the ones who are most adaptable to change who will survive.”
Gupta says that nowadays, given the digital evolution, many businesses require technology to establish their business. “However, technology often comes with a price.”
Gupta lists the following technology-related hurdles currently faced by South African, as well as African, startups with advice on how to overcome these:
1. Up-frontal capital expense
When starting a business, the most important aspect is the customer’s first point of contact which is often the receptionist. However, the cost for the telephone equipment and hiring of a receptionist may not be within the startup’s budget. Business owners should consider the services of a cloud telephony solution that can answer calls professionally with no capital outlay, or requirement to hire additional staff, when budgets are tight.
2. The total cost of ownership
Startups should consider Unified communications as a service (UCaaS) solutions which deliver lower total cost of ownership than a ‘premises-based solution’. UCaaS technologies include enterprise messaging and presence technology, online meetings, telephony and video conferencing. This means the startup benefits from a fully-loaded cloud solution at a lower total cost because the expense of managing the network is mitigated.
3. Small Risk of Obsolescence
Voice and email systems used to be updated only rarely. With voice moving to software, it is clear that there are more updates required to stay current. Furthermore, as more pieces get added to a unified communication solution from different vendors with different software release cycles, the difficulty of upgrading becomes onerous. This is clearly a hassle to modern enterprises. The benefits of using a reputable service provider that applies all the patches and software upgrades required and keeps the server equipment regularly updated, cannot be underestimated.
4. Manage leads
Not only in the beginning, but throughout a business’ life-cycle, lead generation is incredibly important. However, startups may find this area incredible challenging to manage. As a result, it is vital to have a reliable system in place to record every call landing on the company’s system. Missed call alerts must be noted and returned, with timely follow ups for better lead conversion rates.
5. Safety and Security
Most businesses are worried about the safety and security of data; however, they forget that hosted service providers offer higher security than most SME’s and startups can provide for themselves.