An SMB IT organisation is always faced with the challenge of in-house technical expertise and lack of funds to invest in the necessary infrastructure to offer world class services to customers. At the same time, the SMB vendor has to carve out a position in the market, where a large competitor is spending heavily on brand building. Almost all major players in the IT-ITeS sector have dedicated SBUs serving specific market segments and many among these offer direct competition to an SMB IT player that also aims to target the same set of customers – individuals or businesses. In this scenario, it becomes very important for an SMB to have access to the latest, state-of-the-art technological platforms for customer outreach and interaction, to help offset some of the advantage enjoyed by large players through brand building, extensive service networks etc.
SMB IT organisations have some typical characteristics. These include limited manpower, relatively lower access to financial institutions and finance for business operations, flexibility in terms of service offerings and porous boundaries defining their markets etc. In such a scenario, ‘tele’ and ‘virtual’ offices become a very important element of operational strategy, and therefore the role of telephony-based support services to enhance reach and geographical market footprint assume criticality. Again, SMB organisations cannot invest heavily on building telephony-based customer support systems for various reasons, primarily because of the large start-up investment required.
This is where Cloud-based telephony solutions can come to their rescue. A Cloud-based system allows SMB IT players to set up the telephony-based service offerings in minimum time and with the least possible effort, similar to what we have to do, to configure email, set up a website or other services for a business. Earlier an IT manager had to set up servers for enabling these capabilities, now he / she just signs up for hosted services. In the same way, Cloud-based telephony can allow SMB organisations to start up a very important medium of interaction with customers, including reaching out to prospects, making the investment a variable cost, instead of fixed capex investments. That is the real advantage of a Cloud-based system. Amongst SMB organisations, business levels are bound to undergo frequent fluctuations and trimming of costs is a regular activity compared to large players. So, the more the variable components in an SMB set-up, the more comfortable is the CFO in managing the cash and fund flows for his / her organisation.
VMC Technologies, vendors of MCube, cloud-based telephony services is amongst the pioneers in India in this field. The company developed its solution completely in-house, of course with building blocks sourced from some of the world’s best technology partners. The solution is available to a customer as Software as a Service (SaaS), enabling organisations to greet, route and track all incoming business calls round-the-clock, throughout the year.
The company has so far over 1,000 installations in the country in various industry segments, but sees a lot of traction from the Real Estate segment. On the applications side, MCube is mostly used for managing customer helplines, but an increasing number of end-user organisations also use it for sales and lead generation. VMC Technologies have 50 employees engaged in software development, business development and other organisational roles.
The company is slowly opening up and working to increase their visibility and presence, although the core focus remains on bringing in more value from a technology perspective into their solutions. With the India mobile subscriber base at historic levels, and data usage still limited in terms of reach and penetration, a voice-based solution is going to remain a critical element for businesses, especially small and mid-size businesses. At the same time, as a nation, we have no way to enjoy the labour arbitrage benefits that US and other western economies did by setting up large scale back-office and customer support centres in India and other geographies. We have to service customers from within India. This means a large potential exists in the domestic market for telephony-based support systems, and there is perhaps no better way to use cloud technologies. Players like VMC Technologies have a great opportunity ahead of them, provided there is an enabling regulatory environment (I will touch upon this separately, in my forthcoming blog). Further, there is need to raise awareness about the availability and benefits of using such technologies and solutions amongst potential customers, particularly SMB organisations.