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The biggest challenge for SMEs is not being able to advertise its products in a cost-effective way: Sulekha CEO

Technology is opening up several avenues for small and medium businesses. The sector is witnessing a strong B2B presence with efforts for access to e-commerce, which is bringing producers and the sellers together on a platform. Smartphones and network providers are becoming affordable, making adoption of technology easier and resulting in a faster reach. Government initiatives to empower this sector have been simultaneous and are expected to contribute to Indian’s growing GDP.

However, SMEs face several challenges including not being able to advertise their products and services in a cost-effective manner. There are regulatory norms to be followed by these businesses depending on the region of its origin. Plus, financial support and shying away from technological know-how are some of the problems that continue to exist in the sector, says Satya Prabhakar, the founder and CEO of Sulekha.com, a leading digital platform for local services.

What's the scope of digital local services platforms in India? What's driving the need in the space?

Digital services space today is in a particularly good position and finds itself in the midst of three mega trends in India. One, India being one of the five largest economies of the world. Two, the rise of digital mobile industry which has shown a remarkable growth. Three, the local services business is pegged at $100 billion.

The opportunities in this area of business are ever growing and evolving. With the growing number of smartphone users and other mobile devices, the trend to look for services as well as match that particular requirement is fast paced. These devices are part of a consumer’s buying journey and therefore a digital marketer or services provider have this ever-growing opportunity to deliver content at the origin of the need.

What trends do you observe in today's evolving SME business?

With Indian economy being one of the fastest and fifth largest in the world, the SME sector is witnessing a strong push by the current government. It’s almost as good as reinforcing the basics of the economy, as the SME sector is the biggest contributor to employment generation and, therefore, a direct contributor to the GDP of the country.

Technology is opening up several avenues for this sector. The sector is witnessing a strong B2B presence with efforts for access to e-commerce, which is bringing the producer and the seller together on a platform. Smartphones and network providers are becoming affordable, making adoption of technology easier, resulting in a faster reach. Government initiatives to empower this sector has been simultaneous and is expected to contribute to Indian’s growing GDP.

Please share some insights on challenges Indian SME face.

The SME sector is a rising sector and an emerging one for potential job creation in India for low-skilled jobs. But, it is not without challenges amidst a growing economy. One of the biggest challenges they face is not being able to advertise its product and services in a cost-effective way. Besides this, there are regulatory norms to be followed by SMEs depending on the region of their origin. Financial support and shying away from acquiring technological know-how are some of the problems that continue to exist.

How do you bring value to Indian SMEs?

Sulekha helps in providing actionable, affordable, targeted, easy-to-use leads to SMEs to grow their business. It delivers more than 23 million leads per annum and these are converted into business by thousands of businesses each day. We estimate that Sulekha helps in generating more than Rs 1,000 crores of sales for our 65,000+ SME customers each month (besides helping some of the four million free listing customers listed on our website). Sulekha’s customers span about 200 categories in local services that include home services (packers-and-movers, pest control, cleaning services etc), coaching services (home tuitions, sports coaching etc), computer training courses (SAP, Oracle, Cloud training, etc.) and a variety of business services (security guards, security systems, office equipment services, etc.)

Are you planning to foray into new areas and new products?
Sulekha is launching a range of hubs to aggregate user needs and offer them to its customers. These include the recently launched wedding hub that helps more than 1,000+ caterers, wedding photographers, priests and others to list their portfolios, blogs and source leads. Sulekha plans to launch five to six more hubs in the near future and grow thousands of SMBs.

What are your top challenges and how do fend them off? Does being an early adopter of technology help you stay ahead?

Sulekha is going to several more Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities in 2018 to serve them better. Growing the user traffic from smaller cities is a key focus area. Further acquiring and retaining SMEs from Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities and serving them through a small inside sales team based in Delhi and Chennai is a key challenge. Sulekha is solving the challenge by helping SMEs to onboard themselves on the Sulekha business app and getting Rs 1,000 to Rs 2,000 worth of free leads.

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