WITH more transactions moving online, connectivity has become even more critical for companies today. In this sense, telecommunication companies have big shoes to fill in the new economy.
But as business needs evolve rapidly, this role goes beyond just enabling communication.
Maxis chief enterprise business officer Paul McManus (pic) highlights that it is also about helping businesses along the digital journey.
“I think we have multiple responsibilities. Firstly, we are a critical service. If people cannot communicate, they cannot do business. So we have to make sure that we continue to deliver that service.
“But we are also doing other things in terms of helping organisations take technology and digitise (their operations). We spend a lot of time working with our customers to let them know how to do it, like shifting from physical stores to selling products online, helping them make sales and payments for those transactions, or how to manage logistics.
“These solutions that we provide are not just about the technology, but actually delivering the outcome and the end experience for them, ” he says.
It’s about providing the ability for customers to manage and understand their assets, he adds.
As companies adapt to the new environment, Maxis has also had to change the way it designs solutions for its customers. While it rebundled some products to make them more accessible in light of Covid-19, more thought was put into reconfiguring basic elements and ensuring results for enterprises.
“We used to look at customers’ behaviour, then build the offers around what we felt they wanted to consume. But those behaviours have changed.
“Now we have to think about what pain points businesses are going through and then repackage our solutions to resolve them where cash flow has been impacted negatively, access to customers has become difficult, paying bills was almost impossible and income has become harder to generate.
“So the solutions are very much focused around the pain points, how do businesses survive, pay bills, generate revenue in new ways, and how technology applies. We looked at how you manage the payments, technology, point of sales (POS), and even the inventory, warehousing and distribution, ” he says.
SMEs have been quickly forced into going digital in the face of the pandemic and many have struggled to understand new consumer behaviours and new technological systems.
McManus notes that small businesses in Malaysia have generally been slower with digital adoption compared to the region, which has made the learning curve over the last five months a lot steeper.
According to an EY report last year, the majority of Malaysia’s SMEs are in the early stages of digital maturity at 62.7%, compared to 54.9% in South-East Asia. Most of their digitalisation programmes remained fragmented and occur in silo functions rather than in line with a broader enterprise strategy.
On the other hand, only 6.8% of local SMEs (South-East Asia: 8.7%) are at stage five of digital maturity, where organisations consider themselves digital native enterprises and have a single digital platform to scale technological innovations.
The government has taken the lead in driving digitalisation for SMEs in recent years, particularly through the push for Industry Revolution 4.0. Among its efforts include the RM500mil SME Digitalisation Grant.
The incentive offers a 50% matching grant of up to RM5,000 per company for the subscription of digital services such as electronic POS, digital marketing and HR payroll system. The grant will be available over five years, limited to the first 100,000 SMEs applying to upgrade their systems.
Maxis, which recently obtained its technology solution provider status from the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) for the grant programme, hopes to partner small businesses in getting them on the digital bandwagon.
McManus sees this as an opportunity to bridge the gap between government funds and how technology can be deployed for SMEs. The key, he says, is to enable SMEs to leverage the grant without making it cumbersome.
He also thinks that the company has a lot to offer, not just in terms of solutions, but also in creating awareness and educating them on how to manoeuvre through technology applications.
“Our customer base is predominantly made up of SMEs. They want to grow and expand, but in many cases they lack the knowledge and know-how in terms of how to go about it.
“We see a role for Maxis to not only help them understand but also to apply as opposed to just selling them something for technology sake. They see the value of digital, but they don’t have the knowledge or the right partner to walk with them, to take them on that journey to realise and unlock the benefits, ” he says.
Given the size of its network, he adds that Maxis will also be able to facilitate cross-sharing of knowledge among businesses.
He points to its #KitaSapotKita campaign launched in March to encourage SMEs to share their experiences and insights during the movement control order (MCO) to inspire and educate fellow entrepreneurs.
The telco has also been firming up partnerships internationally to bring in expertise, knowledge and insights from other parts of the world to help build the local ecosystem.
“Our job is to bring all these pieces together. Taking connectivity, awareness, industry insights and lessons learned and combining them to make it simple in terms of commercial proposition so that it can be consumed as a service.
“Like a spider, we sit in the middle of the web, and we can join the strings together, we can paint the whole picture and then deliver it as an outcome, ” he says.
It also tries to ensure that rural entrepreneurs are not left out of the digital race through e-commerce education.
In the longer term, McManus says 5G will be another game changer that SMEs will have to look out for, which it also has a stake in.
“I think it will exponentially change how people interact and consume this technology. 5G and the expansion of fibre footprint, will bring changes in so many ways – education, transactions, services, managing people, your time, assets, managing customer experience, helping you differentiate, sharing stories, advertising. It’ll bring so many opportunities.
“Manufacturing will probably be one of the major beneficiaries. When you combine 5G with Internet-of-Things (IoT) and automation, that digitisation and removal of highly labour intensive activities will help you drive up quality, competitiveness, and actually drive up the skills base.
“You are no longer assembling things. You are now managing the systems or the technology, using the intellectual property of your people in adoption and familiarisation of digital technologies. I think 5G will be one of those technologies that suddenly enables adoption of technology in terms of acceleration, ” he adds.
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