How AI-driven solutions can digitally transform SMBs for success in a highly competitive global and regional market for business and talent.

On the heels of the SMB Support 2023 event, which kicked off on 16 May 2023 in Singapore with some 60 exhibitors showcasing their digitalization success stories, DigiconAsia had the chance to catch up with Lawrence Chan, Managing Director, MyRepublic Singapore.

Here are some of his insights into AI adoption and the SMB digitalization landscape, based on his teams’ experience on the ground:

What competitive edge can AI-driven solutions offer SMBs, especially in leveling the playing field against larger competitors?

Chan: AI has advanced at an unprecedented pace in recent months, with the rise of generative AI tools such as ChatGPT and DALL-E dominating headlines globally. It has been almost two decades since we last saw an innovation that produced such transformative changes in the business world. The rise of AI is akin to the widespread adoption of the internet in the 90s, and its limitless use cases from the automation of manual tasks to the creation of intelligent actionable insights have the potential to even the playing field for SMBs against large competitors.

The biggest advantage that AI-driven solutions offer SMBs is greater efficiency and productivity for less. The way AI tools such as ChatGPT work is through the management of vast amounts of data, giving it the ability to provide accurate and relevant responses almost immediately. In other words, it is like having a team of experts at your fingertips, available at all times. This is a great leveler for SMBs, which might not have a large pool of talent and resources available at their disposal, as compared to their larger competitors.

With the use of AI solutions, SMBs can overcome resource constraints and gain access to an arsenal of tools that enable a more seamless way of working across functions in the organization.

What difference in role does AI play in driving productivity and cost-efficiency for SMBs versus larger enterprises?

Chan: The term SMB naturally translates to smaller teams and fewer tools as compared to large MNCs. To that end, harnessing the power of AI to drive productivity and cost-efficiency will be even more crucial for SMBs to stay relevant and competitive in a dynamic and evolving business environment.

With AI, SMBs can automate manual, labor-intensive processes, freeing up time for employees to take on higher value-adding tasks. This not only enables a more effective and efficient workplace, but also keeps employees motivated and engaged as they are empowered in their roles.

Companies that run on AI-driven solutions will no doubt emerge as preferred workplaces in the future. A focus on AI in company processes will go a long way in helping SMBs retain their best and brightest talent.

Lawrence Chan, Managing Director, MyRepublic Singapore

What are the biggest opportunities for SMBs to leverage AI and digitalization that you can see in this region?

Chan: As an SMB ourselves, we see a ton of opportunity for SMBs to leverage AI to emerge stronger and stay relevant in a digital environment today. A recent IDC report revealed that AI spending in Asia Pacific will reach $49 Billion by 2026. Evidently, more companies are starting to realize the full potential of AI innovations, and increasing their IT budgets accordingly. At MyRepublic, we are adopting AI to drive up productivity gains and help scale our business across operations, sales and marketing.

There are endless possible use cases with AI, but the key trends that SMBs can already ride on today are in the areas of content generation, customer engagement, and smart data analytics.

With AI, SMBs now have easy access to a huge library of information that they can leverage for new content and ideas generation. This allows for more productive team brainstorm sessions and further content creation, all within a quicker timespan.

In addition, SMBs can train their AI tools to respond to customer feedback and give personalized, timely responses. This enables more accurate 24/7 customer support, thus elevating the overall customer experience.

Lastly, with AI embedded into the digital infrastructure, SMBs can generate actionable insights from the vast amounts of data, to make smarter business decisions that better shape the business strategy.

Without the resources larger organizations have, how should SMBs navigate challenges (costs, complexities, compliance etc.) and ethical considerations in AI adoption?

Chan: With every new innovation, it is inevitable that there will be some challenges, especially in the initial stages. The rise of AI has brought about some ethical considerations and concerns that machines will eventually replace humans in the workplace. However, I don’t believe that AI will replace humans. Rather, AI is a powerful tool that will augment human capabilities.

In other words, those who wish to stay relevant need to keep up with this scale of adoption, or risk getting left behind. Amid other competing priorities in the business, stakeholder education will be essential to secure buy-in for AI adoption. In addition, with the speed at which AI innovations are advancing today, having the right IT talent with the relevant skills will be critical in addressing rising complexities in AI adoption.

Against this backdrop, SMBs need to build out a clear business plan that includes AI as one of the priority investment areas for the business, identify potential hurdles, and develop the strategies to overcome them. With a clear plan in place, SMBs can better navigate the challenges ahead and leverage the full potential of AI to their advantage.