So, the question is: how do we build a neighbourhood technology store which co-ordinates the actions of the various IT providers and provides services to small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)? Think of a Tech 7-11, which combines IBMs one-stop, integrated solutions and Wal-marts physical presence, discounted pricing and customer focus. [I have used the term 7-11 to denote the store timings: 7 am to 11 pm. In addition, just as the 7-11 convenience stores dot the landscape in many Asian cities providing all the products that households need for daily life, so too will the Tech 7-11 provide all the technology that SMEs will need for their daily business.]
The Tech 7-11 provide eight key functions as part of the tech value chain for SMEs:
1. Neighbourhood Point of Presence: The Tech 7-11 is a place of about 500-700 square feet, accessible by SMEs in the neighbourhood in about 20 minutes of driving. The first Tech 7-11s will be located in second- and third-tier cities and towns: they are majorly underserved markets. In India, these are places like Tirupur or Surat, which do have an industrial or exports base, but have few technology providers suggesting how IT can make a difference to their productivity.
2. Solutions Showcase: Just was few of us would buy a car looking at simply an advertisement, why should we expect SMEs tobuy technology based on specs and screenshots? They need to see and test-drive technology solutions. They need to touch-and-feel it. Technology needs to come alive in the form of solutions that the customers want to see and deploy, rather than worrying about what processor it is or what brand of printer it is. The Tech 7-11 will provide demonstrate solutions, and not just the components. For example, it should re-create a mini-office or factory set-up, and show how key business processes can be automated for faster access to information for decision-makers. For starters, theTech 7-11 could show how the Linux platform is more than a match for the Windows desktops that users know about.
3. Channel Interaction: The Tech 7-11 becomes a local support centre for the channel (hardware vendors, facilities management companies, software developers), complementing the channels ability to generate leads and close the sale. It provides a permanent demo centre for the channel to demonstrate technology solutions to SMEs, and also get support in terms of the technical marketing staff that may be needed to speak the customers business language.
4. Sales and Support: The Tech 7-11 can also do direct selling of specific products and services. In fact, it is likely to become increasingly possible that the Tech 7-11 becomes the primary selling agent, sourcing hardware and software from the appropriate partners (channels included), much like the way a Wal-mart does. This also makes it possible for the Tech 7-11 to provide support after all, the customer is likely to want support from the entity it made the payment to. Since the channels capabilities to provide support are extremely limited, the Tech 7-11 needs to become the first line of support for the solution.
Tomorrow: Tech 7-11 (Part 2)