Digitisation push for small businesses could create technology jobs in rural areas, say Business Insider’s MSME Exchange panelists

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Digitisation push for small businesses could create technology jobs in rural areas, say Business Insider’s MSME Exchange panelists
<p>Digitisation push for small businesses could create technology jobs in rural areas<br></p>Pixabay
  • Considering no one knows when normalcy will resume, traditional job seekers in rural and urban areas need to adapt to digital processes, highlighted Sridhar Vembu, founder of Zoho.
  • Jayesh Ranjan, IT Secretary of Telangana said that 68% of MSMEs did not have an e-mail id 5 years back, which was disheartening.
  • To bring some balance between rural and urban jobs, more economic activity has to happen at the rural level, particularly high paying technology jobs have to be moved to rural areas, added Vembu.
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To push India towards digitisation, while addressing the people on the nation’s 74th Independence Day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that in the next 1,000 days (i.e. by May 2023), nearly 6.5 lakh Indian villages will be connected with optical fibre to get improved connectivity.

But India’s businesses, especially the smaller ones, have still not embraced a connected world.

In a recent virtual event organised by Business Insider for small businesses -- MSME Exchange -- Sridhar Vembu, founder of software-as-a-startup (SaaS) firm Zoho shared a relevant example for businesses struggling to move digital.

“For a community of singers who perform music in the temples of south India for several functions, singing in temples is their main source of income. They have now witnessed a major decline in [their] regular income. For us, clearly these people can organise online events, but the point is they don’t know how to. To perform music online, audio needs to be properly tuned with softwares and much more. Further, considering we do not know when normalcy will resume, these traditional job seekers need to learn digital processes,” said Vembu.

According to a report by World Economic Forum -- Indian Cities in the Post Pandemic World, released on January 7, 2021 -- about 70% of India's gross domestic product (GDP) comes from its cities and around 25-30 people migrate to cities from rural areas every minute.

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The development model of India in the last 20-30 years has been very urban centric where one has to bring talent out of villages into cities. Vembu feels, in this process, we are overcrowding urban areas and leaving rurals empty which is not good.

“So to bring some balance to this situation, more economic activity has to happen at the rural level, particularly high paying technology jobs have to be moved to rural areas. The idea is to create jobs for people who otherwise might have to shift to urban areas,” says Vembu.

Jayesh Ranjan, the information technology (IT) secretary of Telangana, highlighted a survey that said 68% of India’s MSMEs did not have an email address five years back, which is very disheartening to hear.

He feels that MSMEs can benefit from technology and it is only a matter of mindset holding them back. If unfortunate circumstances like a pandemic come up, dramatic changes can literally happen overnight.

He cited an example of how the government and Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) literally converted thousands of kirana (mom and pop) stores into online stores overnight. “They created their website, inventory, payments getaways and so on,” said Ranjan.

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