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The Digital Transformation Series: Part 1 — “I can’t afford to pivot … I’m too small”

Roshan (name changed) is a young, shrewd, highly industrious entrepreneur. When I first met him, his company was less than a year old but he had already turned it cash positive, drawing the attention of global investors. With fairly good experience in his field of work, he had been able to turn his huge network of friends and acquaintances into meaningful business alliances. Born into a middle class family, growing up, he has seen his immediate friends and family becoming traders, retailers, shopkeepers, distributors, wholesalers, brokers or agents. Starting a business was no surprise … it was only a matter of time. While he was working with a reputed company, he had identified a significant pain point for customers, arrived at a solution and went all out to address this thru his well thought of startup.

Fortunately for Roshan, the pandemic had little or hardly any impact. His business continues to grow. Despite his success, savvy as he is, he understands the need to digitize his offerings. Today, his company runs on very low tech. Partly because he does not come from a technical background and partly because he was too busy setting up his business. With a mostly blue collar workforce, Roshan did not see the need to introduce technology right from the start. To his credit, his business was booming, and he was wary of attempting to do anything that had the slightest chance of disrupting the status quo. Roshan was looking for something that was simple or rather, quick and dirty and not too fancy.

Back in the early eighties when businesses were being ‘computerized’ as it was then called, there was a lot of focus on eliminating paper and speeding up tasks to reduce labour. The intent was not to do anything out of the way, but do what you were already doing, faster and at lesser cost. So if you were riding a single horse drawn cart, you now had one driven by 5 horses, carrying much more weight than you could previously imagine. We have come a long way from that era. Super computers have replaced bulky and inefficient mainframes, smart phones are slowly invading the home computer space and the power that we now have at our fingertips was previously unimaginable. As goes the famous Henry Ford quote, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”. It was because a few visionaries imagined beyond the ordinary and mundane that we are now able to travel anywhere across the earth and beyond, see and speak to anyone at any time of the day and conduct business sitting on our living room sofas.

Today, one needs to leap ahead a few years and not just amble forward without direction. Unless one takes a big step now towards becoming the next Amazon in his line of business, it is easy to get sidelined and forgotten by being a regular brick and mortar establishment. It is much easier to change and adapt to new models when you’re small and nimble.


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