Indian SMB workforce going mobile

Employees are now more mobile as India's small and midsize firms recognize need to improve relationships with partners, customers and suppliers.
Written by Sol E. Solomon, Contributor

The mobile workforce is growing fast among India's small and midsize businesses (SMBs), and is increasingly dependent on mobile phones and portable PCs as vital tools, according to a new study Wednesday.

Released by AMI-Partners, the study found that 43 percent of PC-owning SMBs--with up to 999 employees--in India have a mobile workforce, compared to only 22 percent in 2006. This encompasses employees who have to travel on business for a minimum of four days per month.

AMI-Partners analyst Manashi Dey said the need to constantly be on the move has been increasing, as India's SMBs become more aware of the importance of improving relationships with their business partners, customers and suppliers.

"The Indian economy is rapidly changing. This will create new challenges for those entering the workforce with newer, varied and ever-changing job options," Dey said in a press statement. "The need for a more flexible and mobile workforce requires newer skills and greater adaptability among the youth in India."

A larger portion of India's midsize businesses (MBs), employing 100 to 999 workers, require their staff to be mobile, compared to their small business (SB) counterparts with up to 99 employees. Some 72 percent of Indian MBs have a mobile workforce, while 42 percent of SBs have mobile employees.

AMI-Partners said the difference is due to the fact that MBs are more advanced and have more business partners and business transactions than SBs.

Dey explained: "Traveling is mostly limited within the same city or state, especially for SBs. However, MBs regularly travel to other states and a few of them also travel overseas on business."

Call upon vital tools
Mobile phones are the most vital mobility tool for SMBs, the study determined, allowing their staff to keep in touch with their headquarters, back-offices and other mobile and remotely-located colleagues.

Instant messaging, e-mail, mobile calendar and contact information are some mobile applications most commonly used by India's SMBs, according to AMI-Partners.

Portable PCs are also deemed an important mobility tool for the country's SMBs. The research firm noted that laptop penetration is growing, with 70 percent of Indian MBs using notebooks. Spending on notebooks is also projected to rise by 32 percent this year among India's SMBs, AMI-Partners said.

The country's SBs, too, are realizing the importance of notebooks in supporting business mobility as 37 percent of these enterprises indicated mobility as a key purchase-driver of such PCs. Some 43 percent said they prefer buying notebooks because of in-built Wi-Fi capabilities in these mobile systems.

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