How Small Businesses In Asia Harness Technology
There’s been a healthy growth pattern for Asian SMEs in recent years. Technology has been a huge help.
Agility and diversification help shore up success
The business outlook remains optimistic in Asia Pacific, thanks to the early measures to contain the coronavirus and thus the speedier recovery in this region. According to Xin Hua Net, over 66% of merchants on Alibaba’s leading e-commerce platforms, Taobao and Tmall, conveyed optimism about the future of their businesses in 2020. More than 90% of respondents expressed that they expect to experience losses, but nearly 90% said that they will not cut jobs in 2020 despite the financial pressure imposed by the outbreak. But why so confident?
One compelling answer is that Asian SME export markets are highly diversified, reducing dependence on any one export region or market.
Technology levels the playing field
Yet the emergence of new technologies and their widespread adoption by these SMEs has undoubtedly played a significant role in making the world smaller for SME exporters, and in making international trade easier. According to the World Population Review, the three most technologically advanced countries in 2020 are Japan, India and China.
Four in five (82%) APAC SMEs are using e-commerce, which is a key driver of exporting and importing behavior. Mobile and social commerce are also widely used by Asian SMEs that export. M-commerce is now used by 72% of SMEs compared with 61% in 2016, with half (51%) of them using m-commerce to find new export revenues.
APAC SMEs are seeing the value of social commerce in a number of areas of their business, including helping them identify new customers (43%) and suppliers (38%), providing customer support (42%) and in tracking deliveries (39%).
Trade and Industry 4.0
Among current users of new technologies, a significant proportion of SMEs said they are likely to increase use of mobile payments (69%), big data/advanced analytics (64%), software automation (61%) as well as artificial intelligence (60%). Almost two-thirds of APAC SMEs agree that using emerging technologies is helping to drive efficiencies in supply chain and distribution channels.
Challenges old and new
E-commerce, mobile and social commerce are putting powerful communication and operational tools into the hands of the SMEs that need them most. The net result is the growth in both the global export reach and the confidence of SME exporters across Asia Pacific generally. Among millennials, the feasibility of creating your own job with the tools you naturally have to hand – a smartphone and a laptop – has begun to wipe out traditional social pressure to find a job with an existing company. Younger SMEs prefer to be entrepreneurial, and more and more are taking the leap to be their own boss.
Yet important challenges remain. Almost half (49%) of APAC SMEs worry over customs procedures, while 45% cite currency exchange issues and 43% are concerned about logistics and delivery issues. Completely seamless and borderless international trade for SMEs remains some way off. But APAC SMEs clearly have the appetite and, increasingly, the tools to take on the world.
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