By Blake Larson

Small and medium enterprises now play a key role in the business landscape of Asia Pacific. Accounting for over 96 percent of all Asian businesses, SMEs comprise a stunning two-thirds of all private sector jobs around the region. And yet, there are challenges; from talent shortages, to capital finance access, to the rising day-to-day overhead costs of doing business.

Now is the time for Asia’s powerful consortium of local SMEs to examine anew how they can go about forging a strong path for success, today and into the future. Capitalising on experience and knowledge is key, in order to uncover which best practices will be the most important to succeed in Asia for 2020 and the decade ahead.

Choose the Right Partners

Small and medium businesses are well versed in the financial risks and day-to-day gruntwork it takes to get a successful company off the ground. But the good news is – you don’t have to do it alone. Finding the right partners to rely on, those who can facilitate specific aspects of your product or service, is key. Nobody is good at everything, and it’s rare to find an SME that can do it all in-house.

A great example of the power of choosing the right partner comes from peer-to-peer platforms. Peer-to-peer represents an exciting new business model, but to be successful, these platforms need to find the right partners to help connect people to one another. One innovative ecommerce P2P model connects people who are traveling to people who want to purchase overseas goods from that destination. By partnering with an instant courier and delivery service, the business behind the platform can let its partner connect the delivery dots between people and packages – so the SME itself can focus on how next to disrupt the cross-border shopping experience.

Build on Moments That Matter

Maintaining a steady drumbeat of business is good, but leveraging on certain moments to go above-and-beyond is even better. Figure out what these moments are in your industry and your market, and see how you can build in your company’s offering to win new customers or drive lucrative revenue peaks. Whether it’s a pre-planned promotion for Valentine’s Day, or a one-time service built around an upcoming concert everyone is talking about – look out for these moments that matter and leverage them.

Agility is key in order to build on these special moments. This is especially true in today’s digital world, when buzz-worthy trends and cool events move in and out of the social consciousness at speed. Will an annual consumer electronics show be opening its doors soon? It’s a good bet that visitors will need a way to deliver their newly purchased goods, and the SME that gets there first with the right service, at the right time, will come out on top. Be alert for what’s around the corner and be ready to move fast when looking to capture new customers at these key moments in time.

Don’t Delay on Digital and Data

Customer expectations are skyrocketing, off the back of digital-era innovations centred around the customer. No matter your industry, it’s a good bet that the people who interact with your SME expect a seamless, secure, quick and easy experience. It’s practically impossible to deliver all of this without the power of leading-edge digital technology and data at your fingertips.

Not every small business can afford the capital investment for new technology in-house, not to mention the manpower or talent upskilling to make it work. This is why it’s so important for SMEs to come together, and leverage on one another’s strengths. We’ve already seen how this works with tech-enabled logistics providers in the Philippines, who can utilise their own cutting-edge digital backend platform to help partners set up a cash-on-delivery option – creating a seamless payment experience built around how customers prefer to pay, with zero additional investment or technology build from the SME.

As a new decade unfolds, we can’t wait to see all the ways in which small and medium enterprises will continue to define and redefine what business in Asia is all about. By enacting the right best practices, all kinds of businesses of every size can go the extra mile and deliver something truly amazing to their customers.

Blake Larson is Managing Director, International, Lalamove 

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