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Enabling SMEs to build back better

In the first of a six-part podcast series, Simpli Connect CEO FARHAD SULEMAN talks to Gadget editor-in-chief Arthur Goldstuck and Vodacom Business managing executive Ismail Gani

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According to McKinsey, SMEs make up 98% of businesses in South Africa and employ between 50 and 60% of the country’s workforce, contributing to 39% of the local GDP. It goes so far as to say that “SMEs are the lifeblood of South Africa and also the most at risk”.

Just prior to the Covid-19 pandemic SMEs were already facing challenges with a sluggish economy. More recently, South Africa has seen slowed economic growth. According to Stats SA the economy grew by 1.1% in the first quarter of 2021 which is an annualised growth rate of 4.6%. This figure was marginally higher in the fourth quarter of 2020 with a 1.4% rise in real domestic product, with an annualized growth rate of 5.5%. And while this is positive, we need to bear in mind, that this is still 2.7% less than the first quarter in 2020. The Civil unrest seen in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng will also have a long-lasting effect on the South African economy and will no doubt curb any hopes of sustained or accelerated economic recovery.

The fact remains that SMEs have fewer resources to sustain themselves than larger organisations during times of crisis but are also in an advantageous position to adapt in order to survive quickly.

The Covid-19 pandemic made it clear that technology and in particular ICT, made it possible for many businesses to pivot and quickly implement remote working strategies necessary during lockdown periods. This was in an effort to keep businesses running and to maintain productivity. A year later, organisations are still trying to adapt to new ways of working with hybrid working models becoming commonplace.

According to a study conducted by World Wide Worx titled ‘The Digital Corporation in South Africa 2021’, the percentage of organisations who have increased their digital transformation efforts (15%) is very close to the proportion of staff who are able to work remotely (18%). Conversely, the 20% of organisations surveyed, who have fallen significantly in digital transformation is almost equivalent to the 24% who had only a few staff members working remotely. This could beg the question are more digitally transformed organisations able to facilitate a higher proportion of staff working from home and is technology the enabler?

The study goes on to highlight that 97% of respondents see connectivity as a key area of ICT expenditure. This is significant as connectivity has never been more important than it is today.

However, many SMEs do not have their own IT departments and may not have time to call service providers about problems they might be experiencing with connectivity. Many may need to actually visit mobile provider outlets and may not get the business advice that they seek, with consultants being very focused on a consumer market. SMEs are entitled to business-grade services and offerings.

Simpli Connect is a local ISP that specialises in connectivity solutions for businesses of all sizes, but with special offerings for SMEs. By aggregating solutions from multiple providers, they ensure the customer need is met with the best solution on the market rather than trying to fit the customer’s requirement into ‘similar’ solutions from a preferred vendor. The company prides itself on being a one-stop-shop and provides end-to-end support to SME customers which includes managing any service queries directly with the service provider on their behalf.

Simpli Connect is also able to provide more choice and bespoke solutions to SMEs with white label solutions, sourcing and aggregating expertise,  and coverage via a number of fixed network operators and Telcos. They are also an unbiased partner to SMEs with a geographic footprint that is not only in South Africa, but into Africa and have a vision to partner with SME’s on their digital transformation journey.

SMEs are often the brainchild of an entrepreneur who starts off small with the idea to grow a business. However, these businesses also need to be equipped to transform digitally in order to survive. According to Dell Technologies Digital Transformation Index, 79% of organisations in South Africa have fast-tracked some digital transformation programs this year. Simpli Connect offers SME customers assistance and advice on digital transformation, digital marketing strategies based on their own experience and advice on taking businesses from brick and mortar to digital. This transcends the boundaries of an ISP, where Simpli Connect is vested in SMEs and provides bundles of products aimed specifically at SMEs that provide enterprise-grade products at a fraction of the cost.

According to Farhad Suleman, CEO of Simpli Connect, “We are in a position where we know we can play a part in helping SMEs build back better and we have developed product bundles to do just that. We have also assisted to repair infrastructure where we can and are currently allowing potential customers free trials for three to six months before we expect potential customers to commit to any of our products or solutions.”

Simpli Connect is committed to South Africa and its much needed economic recovery and is focused on reinvigorating the ‘lifeblood’ of South Africa, its SMEs.

In the first episode of the Simpli ConnectED Podcast Series, Farhad Suleman, CEO of Simpli Connect interviews some of the industry’s leading minds.  Arthur Goldstuck joins the podcast to provide insights from The Digital Corporation Study in South Africa 2021 research, and Ismail Gani, Managing Executive from Vodacom Business joins us to provide invaluable practical advice and guidance to SME’s. Finally, we take a look at what solutions are available to SME’s with an insightful discussion with Tanya Dreyer from Simpli Connect. If you would like to listen to the first episode of the Simpli ConnectED Podcast Series, please click here – Episode 1: Simpli ConnectED Podcast Series

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