Cloud and Mobile Technologies to Stimulate Growth For Small and Medium Sized Business in Africa and Other Emerging Markets
Just as rapid adoption of wireless telecommunications technology allowed emerging economies to leap frog capital intensive terrestrial infrastructures, new cloud and mobile technologies present serious opportunities for small and medium-sized organizations to expand rapidly in domestic and international markets.
According to Cisco’s Global Cloud Index, the Middle East and Africa is expected to have the highest cloud traffic growth rate in the world (57 percent CAGR) between now and 2017
In the developed economies of Europe, North America and parts of Asia Pacific, the rise of cloud computing have combined with an increasingly mobile workforce to allow smaller organizations to compete effectively with organizations that are far larger. Entrepreneurs have been able to avoid the investments that add to the cost structure of larger organizations so that they can be more price competitive and move more quickly to take advantage of competitive opportunities.
Entrepreneurs have been able to avoid the investments that add to the cost structure of larger organizations so that they can be more price competitive and move more quickly to take advantage of competitive opportunities.
It should therefore come as no surprise that we are seeing small and medium businesses (SMBs) in Africa, the Middle East and Indian subcontinent make similar investments with the objective of stimulating and competing on even ground with national and multi-national corporations.
India offers an interesting case in point. Analysts at AMI-Partners – a New York-based research firm, recently projected that companies in India with a workforce between 1 to 999 employees are investing heavily in cloud computing and mobility. According to the researchers, cloud and mobility investments in India will account for 45 percent of SMB technology investments by 2018, up from 30 percent in 2013. The trend in India tracks with a broader move to establish an infrastructure that supports cloud- and mobile-enabled business strategies.
The number of cloud users will jump from fewer than 140 million in 2012 to over 200 million in 2016 — with one in four small to medium sized business employees working from home by 2016
For instance, analysts at Techaisle Research, which has offices in San Jose, New York, London, Dubai and Gurgaon, note that the global SMB mobile workforce will be slightly over 298 million by 2016. One-fourth of the SMB mobile workers will be from the mid-market segment with nearly 150 million SMB employees telecommuting and over 120 million traveling on business. As a result, the number of cloud users will jump from fewer than 140 million in 2012 to over 200 million in 2016 — with one in four SMB employees working from home by 2016.
But mobility and cloud is about much more than simply supporting a more mobile and flexible workforce.
“Mobile continues to make impressive inroads into the SMB market, as both a marketing vehicle and as an element of the business infrastructure,” notes Steve Marshall, BIA/Kelsey director of research at the Chantilly, Va-based firm. “Adoption of mobile and social varies across SMB industry sectors…professional and home and trade services are embracing mobile in a big way, with service providers essentially becoming walking POS [point-of-sale] terminals.”
Speaking at the recent IDC Enterprise Mobility Forum 2014 in Johannesburg, George Kalebaila, senior research manager for telecommunications and digital media at IDC Africa, pointed out that the convergence of IT and telecommunications enabled by mobility is empowering businesses to virtualize their processes, and thereby increase productivity, stimulate employee performance, streamline business functions, and improve customer service.
“It is clear that an era of pervasive mobility is imminent, and those enterprises that have adopted a ‘mobile-first’ mindset are already pulling ahead of the pack,” he said.
It would be a mistake, however, to adopt a “mobile-only,” mindset. It is clear that when mobile is effectively integrated with cloud strategies, then SMB organizations in Africa can achieve a force multiplier effect to enhance business performance. This may explain why the region is making big investments in cloud computing.
According to Cisco’s Global Cloud Index, the Middle East and Africa is expected to have the highest cloud traffic growth rate in the world (57 percent CAGR) between now and 2017, followed by Asia Pacific (43 percent CAGR) and Central and Eastern Europe (36 percent CAGR).
However, the adoption of technology is not enough.
Organizations that achieve growth through competitive differentiation will do so by developing new ways of doing business that take both cloud and mobility into account. Indeed, for SMB’s that may not have existing processes around key business functions and operations, the adoption of cloud and mobility solutions may create structures to formalize and improve informal business practices. In so doing, the groundwork is laid for achieving growth objectives.