Empowering SMBs with mobile services

Shalini Verma/IDC
01 Dec 2009

Internet companies have demonstrated a sustainable business model for selling products and services to the long tail. Companies such as Netflix, eBay, iTunes and Amazon have successfully tapped the long tail and built entire businesses by selling a large number of unique products in small quantities to a large customer base. The mobile industry has also demonstrated its ability to sell mobile games, ringtones and music in a similar fashion. The mobile industry is now searching for similar models to address the needs of SMBs by leveraging enterprise mobility products and services.

IDC estimates that SMB's IT spending in Asia Pacific this year will total $103 billion, representing 34% of the region’s total IT spending. Of the estimated 28 million SMBs (fewer than 1,000 employees) in the region, nearly 56% do not have a single PC. This presents an enormous untapped opportunity for mobile service providers, particularly in emerging markets where businesses at the lower end of the value chain do not have basic ICT infrastructure. In China, nearly 66% of the estimated four million SMBs are not computerized.

IDC's Asia-Pacific unified communications and enterprise survey found that 49% of SMBs provide mobile devices or handhelds to employees and 27% provide mobile voice and data service plans. Mobile service providers are in an inimitable position to deliver cloud-based services to SMBs. So far, mobile service providers' data services platform has not been adequately exploited to meet the needs of SMBs. Like the internet, the mobile data services environment could spawn communities and business ecosystems such as the supply chain of a retail network.

Each retail chain has hundreds of SMB suppliers. The procurement process within a retail chain could be supported by a mobile application, given that not all suppliers will have access to e-procurement applications. Mobile service providers have a scalable data service platform to handle a large number of transactions. In addition, they have robust billing and provisioning capabilities built into the mobile data service platform. Lastly, the SMBs could be billed for application usage through the mobile service bill, which precludes the need for credit card payment.

Mobile device players and IT service providers are gearing up to support business ecosystems to enable order, distribution and sales management processes.

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