'Cost is no longer the only consideration'

by Priyanka Bhattacharya    Sep 28, 2011

Rajesh Shetty, Vice President, Cisco India and SAARC talks to CXOToday, about the evolution of the SMB technology buyers, and the points that are driving their technology buying decision.

Rajesh ShettyWhat will drive an SMB company’s IT buying decision?
There is a big mindset change that we are noticing amongst SMBs today. Cost is no longer the only consideration when the SMBs today look at implementing any solution. They are looking at improving productivity, which has grown more important for them now.
In fact, it is a trend and the maturity curve is now higher than ever. While investing in technology, they are seeking better protection of their investments.

What solutions will make most sense now for this business segment ?
The technologies that they are currently looking at are what we call the foundation technologies.
They are interested in solutions that help in collaboration, and improve communication. They are looking at solutions like IP telephony, Unified Communication Solutions, and Web based tools.

Do you find SMBs are becoming more demanding than ever? Are they still price sensitive?
SMBs are definitely more tech savvy nowadays. Though not fully conversant in technology, they are quite aware of the various technologies that are available in the market. Case in point being cloud computing.
Where SMBs are wary, and rightfully so, is with regards to the ROI that the technology will bring to the business. SMBs operate on a very tight budget and investment in technology can set them back significantly in terms of capital. In such a scenario, while making purchases, SMBs need to be convinced of the benefits of the technology acquisition. Further, care needs to be taken to ensure that the said purchases are scalable and can grow with the business.

What are the pain points that most of these companies are looking at addressing now?
Today, the SMBs face three major pain points when deploying IT. Traditionally IT was always seen as a cost centre but now they are looking at IT as a productivity tool to improve business processes. Most SMBs today want to know how their investments in IT can help in meeting their business goals. They are in fact looking at IT when setting up business goals.
Second most important thing is the talent to manage IT. Most companies, even when they outsource IT, like to have an in house IT manager who can understand the implementation process and is at hand to troubleshoot. But getting the right expertise is a challenge today. In fact at Cisco we have modules that aid in skill development of the in - house person.
Finally they have to realise the need to create technology roadmap over three to five years so that they can get the most out of their investment in IT. Investment protection in IT even as the company grows and its IT needs grow is a major issue.

There is an impending market slow down, how do you think the SMBs should plan in such a scenario?
At Cisco, we believe that market transitions provide significant breakthroughs to SMBs and technology can be an important facilitator for SMBs to maximize on these opportunities. So in any transition, either up or down, we recommend that SMBs adopt technologies that help take their business to the next level.
We understand that capital concerns play a big part when considering technology investment decisions and to this end Cisco through Cisco Capital provides a mechanism for SMBs, and our partner network to avail attractive financing models such as zero percent interest and instalment payment schedules. We have very flexible financing solutions like buyback, sale and lease back etc that help customers avail technology without compromising.