By Tanapong Ittisakulchai, Small and Midmarket Solutions & Partners Lead, Microsoft (Thailand) Limited
Small enterprise continues to turn our world on its head. What Uber has done for transportation, Agoda and AirBnB for tourism and accommodation clearly demonstrates that today’s small is tomorrow’s big. These are not the first examples of diminutive, disruptive enterprises that have successfully challenged the status quo to become giants themselves, nor will they be the last.
Neither will the startup landscape continue to be dominated by well-funded ventures from Silicon Valley: here in Thailand, and starting with shoestring budgets but deep pockets of creativity and passion, OokBee has changed the way we read magazines, just as Builk has changed the way we build houses. Thailand has enormous reserves of entrepreneurial talent, with SMEs accounting for almost 93% of Thai businesses. But many lack the resources and mentoring that can allow them to leapfrog the startup process, and truly unleash Thai creativity and innovation to serve our Digital Economy.
How is it that some small players have been able to challenge and beat the bigger competition? This is a particularly relevant question at a time in which technology is developing at a rate far faster than a small or medium business can hope to buy it, learn to use it, and successfully deploy it against the bigger fish.
A ‘New World of Work’ study by Microsoft that polled 200 Thai SMB employees found that 56% of respondents in Thailand use at least 4 to 5 online services, such as email, social, virtual meetings and cloud-based file sharing services, to enable their work needs. The level of usage was higher than the Asia Pacific region level of 52%. The study, conducted in 10 markets in Asia Pacific, also predicted that in the new digital world, employees in emerging markets will leapfrog those in mature markets to become modern workers of the future.
Another important factor is in the strategic way in which the most successful small businesses have chosen to deploy technology. I’m not talking about sinking startup capital into buying the latest hardware and software, along with hiring the technicians to install and run it. I’m talking about making a fundamental shift in the way we think about how small or medium businesses can access the same technology as the big players, in order to scale and grow – but without breaking the bank.
Fundamentally, in the continuing cycle of innovation and disruption, small and medium businesses need to ask themselves an old question: Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for a lot less?
The answer lies in the cloud.
Take, for example, local Thai startup heroes Buzzebees, who offer an innovative mobile and e-commerce solution to retailers, traders, small and medium-sized enterprises and corporations. In just three years they’ve acquired more than 6 million users and aim to expand operations to 15 countries by the end of this year.
One of the ways Buzzebees has managed to achieve such impressive growth in such a short time is by hosting their app on cloud-based Microsoft Azure. That way, this lean startup gets access to powerful, enterprise-class computing from a trusted cloud platform and support through Microsoft’s expansive network of cloud solution partners as and when they need it, all without having to lay in hardware, hire staff, or worry about updating their systems. The choice has halved their operating costs, and left them with far more resources to grow their operations in more profitable areas.
Similarly armed with Microsoft Azure, Thai startup Anywhere 2 Go has launched the Claim Di app which allows car owners to make an insurance claim within 15 minutes at the accident scene. Just two years in operation, the app is already targeting regional markets in Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia, China, Taiwan and Malaysia. Azure offers efficiency in scaling to meet market demand and helps small companies stay agile in a constantly-changing landscape.
Cloud solutions can be tailored specific to function and business. Which is why Microsoft also recently launched its new SMB Power Up Suite that gives users access to Office 365, Microsoft’s cloud-based subscription service, with the latest Office 2016 applications so SMBs can work together with better results, and concurrently worry less with efficient and secure information protection.
Whether it’s F&B or property development, Thai SMEs are discovering that their particular needs can be met without facing huge infrastructural outlays that will only end up becoming obsolete. With a modest investment in a secure, long-term cloud partner – far preferable to “free” solutions that make their profits by monetizing client information – Thai SMEs can pay-as-they-go for a service that grows and improves as their business does. From HR to accounting, hospitality to healthcare, once empowered by the cloud, small businesses need not stay small for long.