Microsoft may be big, but its money often comes from the small. The world’s largest independent software company has helped the National Manufacturing Competitiveness Council (NMCC) make small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in India - such as textile and leather exporters - better equipped to tackle global challenges by building an Internet portal. The portal in turn will help Microsoft sell back-end software and tools.
“A lot of the noise we make is aimed at the underserved segment,” Microsoft India’s chairman Ravi Venkatesan told Hindustan Times on Tuesday after NMCC’s chairman V Krishnamurthy launched the portal (www.nmcc-vikas.gov.in).
Apart from providing content and trade facilitation services and building a business community platform, the portal would provide a foothold for Microsoft to sell software through partners who build data centres and end-user applications, and services that target largely unorganised firms in the SME sector.
Software applications linked to the portal can helps exporters track shipments, calculate rates of return or link exporters with suppliers.
Project Vikas, as the NMCC initiative is called, would help textile exporters in Tirupur, pharmaceutical units in Ahmedabad and automotive component firms in Pune. Agra’s leather exporters and Ludhiana’s textile exporters are expected to be served soon. India is said to have some 380 SME clusters.
Underlying the initiative is Microsoft’s global strategy called “software and service.” While companies such as Salesforce.com rent out applications based on actual usage in what is called software as a service (SAAS), Microsoft helps its partners do the renting while promoting services that indirectly drive demand for its own platforms and tools.
“We are going to expand to 25 clusters over a five year period,” Venkatesan said. “Each cluster will have a unique pain point, and we employ a consultative approach…It is about the business problem you have and what is the simplest and most cost-effective way to solve them.”
In Tirupur for instance, there are 2,500 knitters who do piecemeal sub-contracting work for exports and many of them have never sat at a computer. By linking their mobile phones to receive instructions linked through the portal, Microsoft’s partners help exporters cut short delivery time and save on costs.
Sanjay Gupta, a Tirupur exporter who has helped build the portal, said delivery time can be cut from the current 90 to 120 days for an order to be executed for products like T-shirts, which involve management of as many as 10 processes.
Applications built around Microsoft’s core platforms perform on a smaller scale what in big companies is called enterprise resource planning (ERP). Software helps boost efficiency and cut costs by dashing off bulk messages and quickly matching production capacities with needs.