Projections for the Future: Top 5 Small Business Trends in 2018

Thriving amidst difficult environments has never been easy for SMEs in India, but they continue to stand tall. Despite numerous challenges in the form of infrastructural constraints and lack of access to formal credit, they contribute to 8% of the GDP. Rightly called ‘the engine of growth’ for India, SMEs have scaled manufacturing capabilities, reduced regional disparities and balanced the distribution of wealth.

Small businesses are now being increasingly associated with innovation and employment, and the figures state likewise. The micro, small and medium enterprise(MSME) sector contributes to 69% of employment in India. With the growing penetration of technology into mainstream ecosystem, these industries are at the forefront of bringing the convenience of digitalization to the masses.

The Indian economy is expected to be a $5 trillion economy by 2025, and SMEs are cutting roads towards this goal. As we enter the first financial year post implementation of GST, some interesting small business trends are touted to play an important role for a smoother growth journey to global standards.

Here are the latest business trends that you can keep in mind while setting your objectives for FY 2018-19.

Business Trend 1: Rise of Online B2B Marketplaces

E-commerce marketplaces are gradually gaining momentum worldwide, and has branched out to B2B trading platforms. While this is still at an embryonic stage in India, there is no doubt that the potential it holds is huge. According to experts, the scope of the ecommerce B2B industry is six times bigger than the B2C industry, and is estimated to be worth $620 billion industry by 2020.

Companies such as Amazon Business, Alibaba, IndiaMart, Power2SME, etc. are popular online platforms that connect B2B buyers and suppliers to fulfill their business requirements. These digital platforms have helped small businesses surpass technical and geographical limitations to procure raw materials in bulk at reduced prices and also become official supply partners to large corporations. This is one of the hottest small business trends of 2018 that will present aspiring as well as budding entrepreneurs a level playing field with industry leaders.

Business Trend 2: Personalized Customer Outreach via Automated Tech

With the oldest of the millennials attaining 35 years of age this year, the target audience has shifted by a generation. For an age bracket that has been wrought in technology, this band of consumers need more than online communication. They seek a personalized line of contact when availing services from small businesses, with 60% of them choosing emails as a preferred way to establish this connect.

Since the millennial generation has the highest buying power in the market valued at $44 billion globally, this is one audience you don’t want to miss out on. You can target them by leveraging interactive videos, engaging images, and emails customized with these elements for varying demographics. The use of intelligent virtual communication applications will help you implement this in an efficient and cost-effective manner.

Business Trend 3: Easy Access to Business Credit with FinTech Lenders

The biggest hurdle for small business owners has always been financing. For a country with 50 million SMEs, there is an unmet credit deficit of a staggering $350 billion. Traditional lending institutions are limited by conventional underwriting that caters only to a certain strata of businesses. Lack of collateral, documentation and operational history have been crippling factors that prevented SMEs from qualifying for formal finance. This, in turn, pushed SMEs to the informal sector where the high interest rates charged by moneylenders fettered borrowers to a chronic cycle of debt.

But, FinTech lenders are shifting the narrative by leveraging technology and unconventional data points to provide affordable loans to small businesses as well as consumers. With customized credit products and zero collateral requirement, these digital financiers bridge the gap that had long existed in the market.

Business Trend 4: Big Data to Drive Operations and Decisions

‘Is Big Data too big for SMEs?’- is a question that requires intensive analysis, depending on the goals that define the small business and its operations. Many SMEs see big data projects as unapproachable and sophisticated, owing to the difficulties inherent in understanding huge datasets. However, studies reveal that a calculated use of big data has a colossal impact on the growth of small businesses and has been the chassis for many popular business models.

This business trend is expected to revolutionize the SME sector by speeding its pace of development. New-age digital lenders do finance technological incorporations if it shows a direct correlation to business growth, so you needn’t worry about the funds for investing in Big Data. Check out Unsecured Business Loans for more details.

Business Trend 5: Shifted Focus on IT Security

2017 saw one of the largest cyberattack worldwide, the WannaCry ransomware attack, that caused the encryption of data on computers running the Microsoft Windows operating system and risked the exposure of sensitive data of companies in over 150 countries. Though the attack was stopped within a few days of discovery, the total damages were estimated to be in billions of dollars.

The IT industry in India contributes to a key part of the country’s economy, a significant number of enterprises will begin to invest in dedicated security systems that focus on detection and response, a shift away from conventional systems that were based on prevention. Security enhancements offered by SaaS/Cloud based platforms have become more affordable for small businesses to establish a dominant architecture for data integrity management.

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6 Tips to Increase Your Working Capital

Suresh Tanwar owns a flourishing logistics, packaging, and transport business. He handles nearly all aspects of his company, from sales, marketing, operations, and customer service, to finances. Sooner or later, finance, especially the lack of working capital, tends to become a challenge. Suresh needs to invest in his growing business, like any other Small and Medium Enterprise (SME).

This scenario, common among India’s SMEs, calls for smart management of available monetary resources, ensuring that company has the required business capital to keep operations running . After all, the survival of a business is directly dependent on its ability to seize the next growth opportunity. Businesses also inevitably face situations of sudden, unforeseen expenses. If these working capital needs are not duly addressed, business operations can be affected and profit margins can drop.

Here are 7 tips for business owners like Suresh Tanwar to increase their working capital.

1. Try working capital financing

Procurement of a working capital loan through conventional banks is largely prohibitive, for several reasons. Often, small business owners have no collateral to offer against the loan being sought. This is a major reason why traditional financiers tend to reject loan applications from SMEs. Inflexible lending policies, laborious paperwork, and extremely slow disbursement times by banks also act as deterrents.

Faced with the recurring business costs, and the inability to acquire business capital via traditional bank loans and overdrafts, SMEs are quite likely to find themselves in a tight corner.

Working capital financing offers a constructive way out. An increasing number of SMEs are now opting to meet their working capital needs through lenders other than banks and traditional lending institutions. Capital Float is a digital finance company that funds small businesses. We have assisted manufacturers, B2B service providers, buyers, distributors, travel agents, and many other businesses with easy access to timely credit.

A range of custom financial products offered by Capital Float can help solve the problem of increasing working capital. Flexible, fast, friendly, and affordable, these loan offerings ensure borrowers have access to the requisite amount of business capital, right when they need it.

2.Explore e-procurement

The B2B e-commerce segment is seeing exponential growth in India. A report suggests that the growing presence of B2B e-commerce platforms has offered SMEs access to competitive pricing and has also reduced inventory costs by 40%. This serves to ease the business’ working capital needs considerably.

SMEs have also benefitted greatly from being connected digitally with buyers and sellers through e-procurement. Elimination of middlemen and their related costs means that they earn more revenue. Besides, a digital platform offers SMEs an added advantage of being able to negotiate with a wider base of suppliers. Finally, the process of e-procurement curtails spending.

3.Proactively manage inventory

SMEs need to replenish their inventory constantly. Earlier, there was a need to hold vast amounts of stock, putting pressure on working capital. Miscommunication within departments would also lead to stockpiling and increased costs.

However, rigorous stock checks coupled with e-procurement can bring down such needless expenditure. This greatly eases the burden on working capital. Active management of inventory eliminates the need for advance buying and helps you move towards just-in-time delivery of goods. Efficient inventory management thus holds the key to increasing business capital.

4.Keep track of collections

Businesses often face issues of delayed payments from customers. A smart business manager needs to get past excuses for delayed payments. Creating accurate and timely invoices goes a long way in avoiding deferred returns. Such receivables billing also helps avoid bad debts and cash crunches. Rigorous follow-ups on billing and collections will have a positive effect on the working capital as well.

5.Keeping suppliers happy

Timely payment to suppliers helps develop better working relationships, and works wonders for the business. Besides, it enables SMEs to negotiate better deals. Not being able to pay vendors on time results in a strained working relationship, which could cause delays in deliveries and poor quality of services. Naturally, this can wreak havoc on a business as delays and operational inefficiencies eat into working capital.

Keeping suppliers happy is likely to have added benefits for SMEs in the form of discounts that largely serve to ease the need for working capital. Courtesy early payment, bulk supply and/or regular orders become easier, ensuring that business capital isn’t affected, adding that much more to the liquidity of funds.

6.Keep expenses transparent

It is no mean task to run a business smoothly, especially when it comes to managing finances and having to put aside working capital to seize the next big opportunity. Even smaller hidden expenses can have a cumulative negative impact on an enterprise’s cash flow. Making expenses more visible therefore is an intelligent way of managing finances. This includes setting clear rules in areas such as travel and accommodation, deploying necessary tools to monitor expense claims, and so on.

Running into financial troubles is a given for any enterprise, big or small. How well a cash crunch is handled depends on how much cash a business has in its kitty for unexpected expenses. A financing firm like Capital Float enables enterprises across industries with quick and easy access to funds, to tide over times like these.

A trustworthy partner will walk that extra mile with people like Suresh Tanwar, and help them fulfill their entrepreneurial dreams. Capital Float has been serving SMEs for over 3 years, providing affordable loans, anytime, anywhere, in a manner that is customized to an SME’s business needs.

Oct 24, 2018

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Digital Marketing for SMEs: Business without boundaries

Information availability and decision-making is becoming increasingly dynamic in nature. This constant state of change has impacted customer expectations and many organizations are grappling to keep up. Amidst this chaos, a few companies have found opportunities and strategies to leverage this change.

Most companies which are successful in understanding and fulfilling new-age customers’ expectations have exponentially grown and created very strong value propositions and brands in the minds of the customers.
Some proponents of change defining the business ecosystem today are big data, cloud computing, mobile and content. Digital Marketing as a science, art or technique sits right in-between all of these factors. Is digital marketing complex and difficult to understand? Is it a type of marketing that only large companies with large budgets can afford to execute? Read on to find out.

In many ways digital marketing has democratized business reach to consumers. It has presented a level playing field for small and large brands alike. This is one platform where intellect and ingenuity trumps everything else.
Applications of digital marketing are aplenty – from exploring new markets to growing a stronger brand in existing markets, all in a budget that you can decide and control in real-time.

In this day and age, the question isn’t whether you should do digital marketing, but rather, the pertinent questions are “how” and “where to start from”. Following are 5 simple things small businesses can implement to mobilize their digital marketing:

1. Website for E-Commence and Product Catalog
A website is just like a salesperson. It may need attention and hand-holding early on, but over a period of time, it becomes independent, yielding a steady stream of income. Do bear the following aspects in mind while building your website:
• Does your website have all the information that you would like your customers to know?
• Does your website provide your contact details in case the customer wants to place orders or make enquiries?
• Is it easy for the customers to navigate and find information about your brand and products?
• Is your website persuading customers to take specific actions?
• Is it easy to update information on your website?
Once you have all the content ready for your website, you can use one of the many website builders to set-up the framework. Most of these builders offer plenty of templates and customization options. In case you plan to sell your products online, some of the payment gateway companies can offer to set up the infrastructure for free. Sounds complicated? It’s not. You needn’t be a software geek to implement a fully-functional website.

2. Create local awareness about your business
It is quite possible that some of your prospective customers, even though located very close to you, may have never heard about you. Even if they have heard of you, they will resort to searching information about you on the internet.
Facebook and Google provide you with options to create local awareness and an identity on the internet. You can even place your business on Google maps to help customers locate you. All of this at little or no cost.

3. Catalyze word of mouth with referral schemes
Very few marketing campaigns can outshout the voice of a customer operating as a brand ambassador. While social media can intensify word of mouth, it takes experimentation and genius to go viral.
Win-win referral schemes help you achieve similar results with greater certainty.
There are plenty of plug and play tools which can help set-up referral schemes, leverage your customer’s social network and give your brand a fair chance of going viral. You can track and manage these schemes on the go. Much like your website, these tools are very easy to implement.

4. Advertise on Digital Media
It would be wise to advertise online if a good portion of your customers reside on the internet. Digital advertising unlike conventional advertising is highly targeted and permits small spends. You can choose from promoting your brand in existing markets to exploring new opportunities in new locations, all at the click of a button. And the good news is, all major online advertising platforms provide advertisers with account managers to help them set-up and run marketing campaigns. If you are lucky, you may even find free coupons to run your campaigns.

5. Email-Marketing to connect with your customers
Emails are a very convenient and effective way of communicating to your customers. You can use emails to inform your customers about new products, features and offers. Free guides and manuals can help your customers use your product better.

E-mail provides for two-way communication; feedback enables you to know if your email was received with a smile or a frown.

Much like this blog, you will find plenty of guides, free tools and services that can help you execute digital marketing. It may be tempting to do all of the above or possibly more to join the digital business bandwagon, but begin by evaluating your options and strategizing accordingly. If executed well, one or two targeted options are likely to provide better results rather than a scatter-gun approach.

Hope these points demystified digital marketing for you. So go on, roll up your sleeves and get ready to build a business without boundaries.

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Samarth is a marketing professional with expertise in Digital Marketing. Lead generation, customer engagement & retention, brand building and people development are some of his areas of interest. During his leisure he likes hanging out with friends & family, riding his bike to nearby destinations (sometimes even without a destination), watching movies​ ​​and reading.

​Samarth is a Marketing Manager at Capital Float.​

Oct 24, 2018

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The Challenges of Interpreting Internal Rate of Return (IRR)

The Internal Rate of Return (IRR) is one of the most universal return concepts, and rightly so because of its effectiveness in interpreting returns from an investment. However, it is also one of the most difficult concepts to wrap your head around. In my personal opinion, the difficulty arises primarily due to the understanding of the fundamental underpinnings of the definition. It is not my intention to turn this discussion into a technical one; since the objective is to demystify, I will break it down for simpler understanding.

Firstly, the IRR is better understood when used to compare returns from two or more investments. The decision rule is rather simple – the higher the IRR, the better. The confusion arises when investors look at the IRR in isolation i.e. an investment yields a 20% IRR so what does that mean? The answer is a complicated one and often leads to more questions.

Secondly, the IRR is a multi-period return measure. What this means is that when investors would like to compare investments that span different time periods, IRR becomes the best tool for this purpose. For instance, investment A returns 20% in X years whereas investment B returns 25% in Y years. The question as to which investment performs better is best answered by the IRR.

Thirdly, the IRR works best when investments have conventional cash flows patterns i.e. a negative cash flow followed by multiple positive cash flows. Any variations herein are bound to be detrimental to the IRR calculation. For instance, you buy a stock (negative cash flow) and receive dividends (positive cash flow) during the holding period. The IRR works well in this scenario. However, if you short a stock (positive cash flow) and buy another one (negative cash flow) with the proceeds and finally square of the transaction (positive or negative cash flow) later on, the IRR may not necessarily yield desired results.

Lastly, due to its very definition, in some instances an investment may have no IRR at all or at least one that can be determined! Obviously, in such instances, the IRR is of no use and creates confusion in the mind of the investor. Therefore, the challenges in interpreting IRR arise when investors use the IRR for purposes other than those mentioned above.

Although this list is by no means exhaustive, it captures the salient features of the IRR. Hope this piece has helped simplify the concept and gives you confidence to seamlessly compare investments using IRR.

Vinay Basavaraj

Vinay boasts of a decade of experience working in both large and small organizations. His roles have ranged from sales to operations and even a stint in academia. He currently manages affairs in capital markets in Capital Float.

Oct 24, 2018