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                          Last updated: 30 May, 2021  

                          Arun.9.thmb.jpg IT needs to be foundational element for today's SMEs: RHA Technologies CEO

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                          SME Times News Bureau | 30 May, 2021

                          In an exclusive interview with SME Times, Arun Meena, Founder & CEO, RHA Technologies, said that IT needs to be a foundational element for today’s Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

                          Excerpts of the interview...

                          · Please tell our readers about RHA Technologies and its entrepreneurial journey.

                          Arun Meena: RHA Technologies is the brainchild of IIT Kanpur graduate, Arun Meena. The organization for the first time in India enables the unique trust dependent outsourced tech co-founder offering for Start-ups and SMEs. RHA Technologies team’s experience with multiple organizations including MNC clients across sectors in Education, Real Estate, BFSI, Media & Entertainment, social media, and new age businesses.

                          Our customer centricity and domain expertise enabled RHA Technologies to secure an MNC client along with two start-ups as outsourced tech cofounder / CTO in the first 3 months itself. The organization has since created rapid momentum despite the pandemic. The initial small team of passionate technologists based organization, has within a year, transformed itself in to team of 70 strong professionals with expertise across wider spectrum of technologies. The organizational value system has enabled a larger client base and more importantly further strengthen our customer centricity in our phase of rapid expansion.

                          · What product and services do you offer?

                          Arun Meena:RHA Technologies provides empathetic and synergistic technology consulting, digital transformation, and technology services and solutions to the MNCs and founders of start-ups and SMEs worldwide. We thus enable the client organizations to realize and strengthen their innovation, differentiation, valuation and market offering. We build digital, and Internet solutions, such as end-to-end product and Software-as-a-Service platform development that focuses on moving the client's business forward. We use solutions around AI/ML, Cloud, IoT, Mobile, Automation, Data, and Block chain to transform organizations across processes, business models, customer experience, and products and services. RHA Technologies works alongside clients as trusted advisors to deliver value by helping them create opportunities using technology.

                          · What is the current situation in the Indian IT industry?

                          Arun Meena:2021 has been a year of uncertainty, yet it has been a watershed year for technology sector, the pace and width of digitization has undergone dramatic transformation in the wake of the pandemic. According to NASSCOM, the Indian technology industry produces about 27 percent of the nation's exports and provides livelihoods to about 4.4 million people. From the current estimated USD 194 bn Indian IT industry can reach USD 300-350 bn by 2025 if it can win in the cloud, AI, cyber security, and other emerging technologies.

                          On the ground, we as a boutique IT services organization are seeing a changed attitude to IT. Initially cost-cutting measures were put in to play to manage the pandemic induced slowdown. However, soon business owners realized that digital transformation is creating market winners with better access to customers and suppliers. The current perspective towards IT is that of accelerated investment. The bottleneck is once again availability of quality talent. Investment in digital transformation, cloud efficiencies and leverage of advances in AI and data analytics are setting the pace for the industry. Traditionally laggard sectors like healthcare, real estate and education are leading digital adoption today.

                          · How important is IT for SMEs and start-ups?

                          Arun Meena:IT needs to be the foundational element for SMEs now. Start-ups traditionally tended to have tech as a core element. With customers locked up in their homes, and offices shuttered with Work from Home policy, the age of physical relationship and contact building is on pause. Even the interaction with suppliers needs to be tech driven to ensure consistency and predictability.

                          SMEs must look at technology as both a business growth enabler and a means to save costs. Often, SMEs think that all they need is to create a website and half of digitization is achieved, but having a website, is a digital presence akin to having a permanent hoarding at the simplest level and opening the first showroom at a slightly higher level in the physical world. Beyond the website is the heart of audience engagement, market expansion and value creation. Technology adoption or the digital transformation should thus help SMEs / Start-ups in at least one of these three areas – a) access a broader market, b) improve customer services, and c) reduce time or cost intensive manual work.

                          According to KPMG, profits of digitally engaged SME businesses grew at nearly double the rate compared to only 10% for offline business. This can be the difference between surviving and success.

                          · How can traditional SMBs compete in the Digital First Age?

                          Arun Meena:Digital transformation is key to remaining competitive in this global economy. SMEs have to work with SMAC (Social, mobile, analytics, and cloud) and IoT to beat competition from players from across the world and meet customer expectations.

                          Once the above is done, then the focus should be on digitizing the customer journey and experience and capturing the data. This will provide SMEs insights about the various areas of their business be it cost, best customers, seasonality, bundling, discounts, wasted discounts, supplier’s efficiency, supplier quality/cost, logistics costs, etc.

                          SMEs need the right partner who can help them create a digital transformation journey/roadmap specific to their business. Thereby first solving the key business priorities. Unlike large enterprises, SMEs have to implement the technology over a time period in a staggered approach.

                          At the start, they should go with easy to use out of the shelf SaaS solutions where they can go live within weeks with minimal efforts. The right technology strategy will help SMEs to reach more potential customers and retain and grow existing customers, provide better and unique service to customers, use customer demand to guide the business better, streamline and improve operations and processes, reducing costs and maximizing profits and use technology as a differentiator from other competitors.

                          · How can Start-ups maximize the benefits of APIs?

                          Arun Meena:According to IBM - An application-programming interface, or API, enables companies to open up their applications’ data and functionality to external third-party developers, business partners, and internal departments within their companies. This allows services and products to communicate with each other and leverage each other’s data and functionality through a documented interface. Developers do not need to know how an API is implemented; they simply use the interface to communicate with other products and services. API use has surged over the past decade, to the degree that many of the most popular web applications today would not be possible without APIs.

                          In case of start-ups API, enable them to have better collaboration, faster innovations and added security thus enabling a faster time to market, which is essential for valuation and sales. APIs also enable Start-ups to super charge their product offering with features and conveniences that help lock in customers while incurring minimal additional operation or even development costs.

                          Uber is a splendid example of how start-ups can leverage APIs for their business. In case of UBER navigation, messages, payments are API driven without the need for their developers to develop these capabilities from ground-up.

                          Some examples of API integration that most start-up should look at include:

                          · Universal logins: This allows a quick login by customers without the need to fill in lengthy information – thus enabling higher customer retention and conversion.

                          · Third party payment processing: A quick way to ecommerce enables your own website instead of relaying only on ecommerce marketplaces.

                          · Google Maps: Another quick method to enable location-based product features

                          · Social media integration: Especially important to create word of mouth about the company and product /service.

                          · How to secure SMB data in WFH?

                          Arun Meena:Work-From-Home now seems set to be a permanent feature of workspaces; the format and degree will differ, but it will not be a non-option for most organizations. Data and application access from outside the office premises earlier limited to few individuals is now companywide and thus requires a higher focus in security. In case of SMBs that are, already facing the pandemic sales, impact this additional expense needs minimization. The best practices for them amongst many are:

                          · Behavioral change: Most security breaches can be stopped by ensuring password etiquette and being hyper vigilant about threats. Thus, a strong passwords policy with regular changes along with avoidance of risky behavior like opening unsolicited emails or non-regular websites will go a long way. The staff needs to be trained about this aspect regularly.

                          · Securing employees’ home: Ensuring that the internet router password and firewall settings at staff’s home are not set at default.

                          · Encryption of devices: This reduces the risk of data leakage in case of device theft.

                          · Regular software update: Operating system and anti-virus software needs to be updated regularly to guard against latest threats

                          · Enable two-factor authentication: This is a robust defense against system and account hijacking and simple to implement.

                          · VPN usage: A virtual private network (VPN) makes the connection to office resources over a public network into a private network thus providing safety and security.

                          · AI as a Service can be a game-changer for SMBs. Your views.

                          Arun Meena:Cloud and SAAS have been a game changer for enterprises and SMBs alike. They have packetized the costs and complexity of implementation and created ubiquity of consumption enabling rapid innovation and scale. Now Artificial Intelligence capability is becoming available under the same model and the world can only wait in anticipation of the innovations that may be unleashed. Artificial intelligence (AI) systems are already helping businesses around the globe create personalized, sales-maximizing experiences for consumers. They are also helping organizations streamline their supply chain. In-fact the supply chain is now getting integrated from the consumer to the supply vendor like never-before and AI is the important glue that is helping the system stay intact and at optimal capacity.

                          With SMBs no longer needing to build their own artificial intelligence capabilities due to the availability of off-the-shelf AI as a Service product they can compete with the largest players in their industry. The inherent nimbleness of SMBs - that was being countered by expensive capabilities of AI - once again becomes a competitive advantage.

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