Business owners in Nigeria have been advised to leverage on the opportunities provided by digital technology to boost productivity, service delivery and overall performance of their organisations despite the challenges posed by the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
This was the submission of guest speakers at the second edition of the First City Monument Bank (FCMB) organised virtual capacity building programme for Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) on June 18, 2020 with the theme, "Leveraging Digital Technology & Logistics to Grow Your Business".
The initiative, under the auspices of the Bank’s free comprehensive capacity building programme, tagged, ‘’Business Empowerment and Sustainability Training (BEST)’’ Masterclass, put together by FCMB’sTraining Academy and SME Advisory Unit, isone of the value-added offerings of FCMB to complement its efforts in the areas of lending and advisory services to SMEs with the objective of stimulating their growth and contributions to overall national development.
The online seminar, which recorded over 2,016 registered participants, focused on various topics, ranging from innovation, digital technology solutions, business model opportunities and adapting to the new normal.
The outbreak of the novel coronavirus pandemic has continued to pose alarming economic, business and commercial impact globally. It has adversely limited the ability of businesses to meet high demand of goods and services due to the restrictions and other safety measures put in place by Governments and health authorities to contain the pandemic. However, experts are of the opinion that these challenges can be overcome with the adoption of effective digital technology solutions and logistics.
In his presentation on the topic, "Digital Technology Solutions for SMEs: Charting the Path to the Next Normal", an Associate Partner with Mckinsey & Company, Mr. Chika Ekeji, said, though, COVID-19 is disrupting the structure of businesses across Africa, the continent can respond to disruptions with four actions. These are, a shift in business model, sustaining business and restoring operation, shaping a whole new business and restructuring company or industry, depending on the extent of business model disruption and extent of negative demand disruption.
According to him, "some of the ways business owners can respond to this impact are, respond, return and reimagine. Across all horizon, a number of technology solutions can be leveraged to adjust SME operations to the new normal with the goal of cutting cost, sustaining revenues, reaching (new) customers, delivering on commitments, managing supply chains and innovating".
Another guest speaker, an Associate Director of Strategy and Economics at KPMG Nigeria, Mr. Olusegun Zacchaeus, noted that businesses, particularly SMEs, should realign their strategies to embrace the new normal caused by the coronavirus pandemic. He noted that this new reality presents a new set of conditions for success for SMEs and as such they must proactively adopt new strategies for survival, considering the challenging economic outlook.
He stressed that, "businesses will have to navigate the different phases of crisis maturity by responding to immediate challenges, managing through uncertainty, resetting and identifying opportunities and adapting to New Reality. The strategies for the New Reality include, building financial sustainability, manage your market to sustain revenue flows, diversify and explore new opportunities and re-evaluate your operating model plan with scenarios in mind".
On his part, the Chairman of FASMICRO Group, Professor Ndubuisi Ekekwe, who was a special guest spoke on the importance of "Innovating for Growth & Improving Supply Chain with Technology". He stated that, "there is a need for everyone in business to evaluate why they are in business which brings the market friction between demand and supply to equilibrium. To stay relevant in business, business owners are required to solve market frictions and those with the acquired skills have the capabilities to release products that can overcome the frictions. If you have a great product - great things will happen”.
Professor Ekekwe added that, "the ability of business owners to serve customers and deliver goods to them can be achieved through partnership with logistics companies who leverage on technology toreach customers. By following this model in the right way and choosing appropriate tech solutions, business owners can gain visibility, transparency and save cost, which will in turn help them stay within the marginal cost of production".
Francisca Igboa, Director of Fanny Design Enterprises and a seasoned consultant, in her presentation on, "Business Model Opportunities and Entrepreneurship Solutions to Attract Investors", said businesses should effectively position to attract clients and investors. "It is high time for businesses to move to the level of consistency and visibility for clients to become potential investors. Business evaluation for expansion are most times possible when there is a known basis by investors to be part of such a business", she advised.
Commenting on the BEST Masterclass, the Executive Director, Business Development of FCMB, Mrs. Bukola Smith, said the Bank recognises the increasing role and impact of SMEs and particularly understand the impact COVID-19 might have on their operations.
According to her, "the BEST initiative has been redesigned to meet the changing dynamics of the environment with the addition of a Masterclass. This is one of the innovative ways we empower and lay a solid foundation for the success of our SME customers. We believe that this initiative, which is the second edition since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, will go a long way to impact positively on business owners. We will continue to go the extra mile to create opportunities that would enable our customers succeed despite the challenges".
Participants expressed their immense gratitude to the Bank for providing such a very valuable platform to enhance their knowledge and overall capacity.