You know that the days of the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are here. Like ant armies, they will soon overrun the world.

But just how soon is soon? A July Oxford Economics study of SMEs called The Global SME Mindset showed how globalized business was set to become. The study, which surveyed SMEs from 21 countries, including India, said the number of SMEs which generate over 40% of their revenue from outside their home country will increase by 66% in the next three years. The number of those doing business in at least six countries will increase by 129%. SMEs not only have growth ambitions like multinational companies, but are willing to go out and compete with them on their turf. Naturally, the tools they use to fight major competitors are also set to change dramatically.

One of the more interesting results of the study shows that SMEs believe they can overcome their lack of size through local partnerships. This means heightened collaboration with suppliers, vendors and distributors. More than half the respondents in the study said they were driving collaboration and innovation via online business networks and platforms. More significantly, almost a third (32%) said their key challenge to fight competition was superior technology; an equal amount said they had difficulty in determining the right mix of technological investments.

This struggle is being made simpler, as technology especially crafted for highly competitive SMEs becomes increasingly available. It is clear that the modern David is going to fight Goliath with affordable technology.

Meeting requirements

SMEs want nothing less than the enterprise- grade tools that would be used by top companies, and applications to assist with their financial and accounting functions; performance, operations and project management; inventory and order management; reporting or simply tracking the time that people spend on projects. The problem SMEs face is: Wherever they turn, they find technology consultants who confuse them (if they aren’t already confused), who provide advice that doesn’t necessarily meet their needs and in the long run, can prove expensive in lost time and wasted investments.

What should an SME do then? Turn to crowds, naturally. Until recently, SMEs were forced to turn to online app stores that largely catalogued and distributed consumer applications. They began to believe that what was good for the individual would be good for the company. This is not always true. So we looked up three sites—GetApp, Shopify, Google Apps—that catalogue, review, rank and show trends for apps aimed at fulfilling typical SME requirements. Many of them offer free apps or apps for limited use and free trials, which means that as an SME you can try before you buy.

Arun Katiyar is a content and communication consultant with a focus on technology companies.

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