Technology for MSMEs: Priyanka (name changed) runs a start-up to provide employability skills to low-income engineering students in remote parts of India. The first step is to ensure skilling options – best suited to their interest, skills and career options. Since the students are from remote locations and have different language preferences, Priyanka and her team often find themselves explaining the same process over and over again.
Her students also had an inconsistent experience and often could not connect with the team because they were busy with other calls. Capturing student data was onerous and her team was overworked and tired.
She thought AI was meant only for large corporations with big IT teams. But soon discovered this a wrong assumption!
How AI Affects MSMEs
Artificial intelligence (AI) technology has revolutionised the way small businesses operate, providing ways to improve efficiency, reduce costs, and increase revenue. While larger enterprises and organisations have been quick to adopt AI, small scale businesses can also reap the benefits from this innovative technology.
How can MSMEs implement AI
Automating routine tasks: Small businesses often struggle with limited resources and have to rely on few employees to carry out multiple tasks. This can be time-consuming and could lead to errors that might be costly. With AI, MSMEs can automate these routine tasks, freeing up employees’ time to focus on more complex tasks that require human expertise. For instance, chatbots can be used to handle customer inquiries, orders or troubleshooting queries, reducing the need for employees to respond to simply questions repeatedly. Scheduling meetings, and managing calendars can also be automated using AI.
Enhancing data analysis: Small businesses collect a lot of data, but they often lack the resources to analyse and draw insights from it. With AI, small scale businesses can leverage advanced analytics to gain a better understanding of their customers, operations, and market trends. AI algorithms can quickly process large amounts of data, identify patterns and trends, and provide actionable insights that can help businesses make informed decisions in real time.
Improved customer experience: Customer experience is a critical factor for the success of any business. AI-powered tools can help MSMEs provide personalised and timely customer service. For instance, chatbots can provide 24/7 support to customers, handle basic queries, and even make recommendations based on customers’ previous interactions with the business.
Increased efficiency and productivity: MSMEs have to optimise their resources to stay competitive. AI-powered tools can help businesses streamline their operations, reduce manual processes, and increase efficiency. For example, AI can be used to automate accounting processes, transactions, invoice creation, reducing the time and effort required to manage finances. Similarly, AI-powered inventory management systems can help businesses optimise their stock levels, reducing waste and increasing profitability.
Priyanka decided to talk to her friends in computer science to use and used an AI-based recommendation engine to make life simpler. Based on her target audience’s skills and profile, the engine threw up course recommendations.
Priyanka was able to cover hundreds of students in a few minutes. Instead of relying on individual intuition, the system used an algorithm to help students with their choices based on existing vacancies in the industry. Soon they were able to place 3,000 students!
Priyanka was conscious of the fact that AI cannot solve all her problems. She and her team needed to also use emotional intelligence in work on mental strength of the students. As the employment scenario deteriorated, students also needed mentorship and support to take strides in their professional career. The strength of the community helped them immensely. It is also important to remember that AI also needs to be complemented by the sensitivity of a mentor and coach.
And now the team had enough time to build the magic of touch into the power of technology!
Navya Naveli Nanda and Madhura DasGupta Sinha are building EntrepreNaari. Views expressed are the authors’ own.