Small and medium enterprises now represent a major engine of growth for Asia, comprising over 97% of all businesses in the region and making significant contributions to the region’s economy. It’s a similar story here in Hong Kong, where over 98% of business establishments are SMEs, considered by the Government to be “of crucial importance to the development of our economy.”
And yet, many SMEs in Asia find themselves constrained. Though their sights are set on expansion, they are often held back by lack of access to capital financing, ongoing talent shortages, and issues surrounding the still-developing urban infrastructure in many parts of the region. A 2019 study of Hong Kong SMEs found that 31% of these businesses have insufficient staff or skills to expand their international footprint.
In this context, it is critical for small, medium and micro-sized businesses in Asia to uncover every new opportunity for growth and efficiency – and digitising delivery is one of the most important.
Agility & Scalability
Digitising delivery can reshape how SMEs operate; empowering the business to take back control and create an agile, scalable foundation for short- and long-term growth.
Take the example of a small florist operating in Thailand, whose flower orders fluctuate from day to day. Working with a traditional delivery company, she would need to commit to paying for a certain number of deliveries per period and adhere to a schedule drawn up by the logistics company. And if she wanted to add more deliveries to accommodate an unexpected last-minute customer, or reduce deliveries to save on costs when business is slow? Tough luck.
Previously, businesses facing the above dilemma had just one other choice – invest in their own delivery fleet and face the ongoing costs of vehicle maintenance, employed drivers and insurance.
The opportunity to manage deliveries via a digital platform such as web or mobile apps, however, flips this system on its head. It gives the power back to small business leaders, so they can be agile and instantly scale deliveries according to their exact needs. The business can quickly add in more delivery orders when business is booming, schedule deliveries in advance to help plan operations, and reduce service or eliminate it completely when deliveries are not needed.
Automation & Transparency
When deliveries are digitised, businesses can enjoy a new level of automation and transparency through real-time vehicle tracking, consolidated online records and hassle-free driver communications. This enables businesses of every size to take a more active and informed role in how their logistics processes are managed.
What can companies do differently with the power of automated and optimised last-mile delivery solutions? It depends. Some businesses may use this enhanced visibility to communicate up-to-the-minute delivery times to their own customers to improve consumer experience and loyalty. Others may get the most benefit from streamlining accounting processes to save time and build a more accurate view on where new efficiencies can be unlocked.
The Digital Shift: Fuelling Expansion Ambitions
Every business knows the importance of digital transformation, but this process is easier said than done – especially for small, medium and micro-sized companies without the resources or manpower to enact a major paper-to-digital shift. Digitising delivery through an app like Lalamove, however, represents a unique opportunity to execute a technological transformation with zero added costs. In fact, a business will actually be increasing efficiency and cost control immediately, as they digitise communications, scheduling and accounting for delivery processes.
Making this digital shift in delivery is vital for small businesses with expansion on the horizon. Investors today are not only interested in groundbreaking products and ideas – they are looking for the next big idea that can be quickly scaled regionally or globally. A single-market strategy just isn’t enough, and any start-up seeking local and overseas investors will need to adopt its own global vision and demonstrate scalability. If delivery processes are stuck in the last decade, the business as a whole can’t move forward.
Leadership in the Small Business Era
There’s no doubt that we are now entering a defining age for small, medium and micro-sized business in Asia. The past decade has seen small business leaders across our region assert a stunning level of potential, and in the next decade, this potential will come to fruition in ways that we never could have foreseen. Any company of any size that wants to be a part of that story, mustn’t lose any time in digitising its delivery processes for the future.
The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Hongkong Business. The author was not remunerated for this article.
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Blake Larson is the Managing Director, International at Lalamove. He spent his career leading teams and overseeing operations during periods of exponential growth for both Fortune 500 companies and tech start-ups across four continents. In his current role, Blake oversees operations across Asia, including in Singapore, Thailand, Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and India.
Formerly, Blake served as the Managing Director of Rocket Internet’s Easy Taxi in Hong Kong and oversaw Business Development in the region from 2013 to 2014. He helped establish the business as one of the market leaders in Hong Kong, India, Indonesia and Singapore. Prior to that, Blake co- ounded and served as the managing director of Air Crew Club, a global marketplace for airline employees, from 2012 to 2013. Blake also served at the Clinton Foundation in their Global Health Finance Department in 2012. His primary role was to work with local government and funding partners to drive operational improvements to lower the cost of treatment.