SME Vai: Bangladesh’s One-Stop Business Services Platform for SMEs to Manage and Grow Their Businesses
While Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) continue to play a critical role in the economic development and creation of opportunities in Bangladesh, several studies found that the potential of small and medium enterprises is yet to be fully utilized in Bangladesh. A study conducted by Mohammad Saleh Jahur, a professor of Accounting and Finance at Chittagong University, in 2018, found that the contribution of SMEs to the GDP is only 20.25% in Bangladesh. Compared to that, in India, it stands at 80%, 60% in China, and 69.50% in Japan. The scenario is no different in the overall number of enterprises. The share of SMEs in all enterprises is 80% in Bangladesh whereas it is 97.60% in India, 99% in China and 99.70% in Japan. Bangladesh lags significantly behind largely because of the external and internal challenges facing the SMEs.
The challenges facing SMEs in Bangladesh are long and consistent. Some of them are well-known such as access to finance. Some are not that well known but equally affect the growth of small and medium enterprises such as financial management problems, lack of business and marketing knowledge, lack of skilled manpower, etc.
This is where SME Vai, a one-stop digital platform for SMEs, comes in. SME Vai offers a combination of a cloud-based self-service platform and service marketplace for SMEs to tackle various challenges that hinder the success of SMEs in Bangladesh.
For example, using SME Vai, a small and medium enterprise could easily manage their books of account and financial dealings. It could send digital invoices to customers. Monitor various metrics of its business real-time. The platform also offers marketing solutions that SMEs could use to market their products and grow their business. This could address multiple issues for a small and medium enterprise from ensuring healthy growth of its business to accessing finance.
More on SME Vai services in a moment. Before that an introduction to SME Vai and why it is an important service.
Enter SME Vai and why SMEs need an organized service marketplace
As we mentioned earlier, SMEs endure a myriad of challenges in Bangladesh. Access to services that could help them deal with various business needs such as marketing and financial management is one of the major ones. A study conducted by the Daily Star in 2019 found that 55.71% of SMEs suffer due to lack of knowledge about how to market their products.
In this backdrop and experience of working with small businesses for over 5 years, Mahadi Hasan Sagor and Md Saimum Hossain, two co-founders of leading digital communications company GEEKY Social Limited, silently started building a platform that could solve the bulk of the aforementioned problems in a cost-efficient manner using the blessings of technology. The R&D started back in 2015 when GEEKY Social launched Bangladesh’s first-ever National F-Commerce Summit.
They postulate that for more than 5 million SME businesses in the country, there is no one-stop solution for business support services like accounting, marketing and advertising, and legal services, etc. This is a real problem for SMEs across verticals. More than 82% of SME businesses in the country do not maintain any accounting records, let alone automated. This negatively affects both their sustainability and growth. SMEs often face challenges with finding suitable business service providers for their various needs including marketing, accounting, sales to IT and beyond. All these inefficiencies significantly raise the cost of doing business for SMEs in Bangladesh.”
In Mahadi Sagor words, “SME Vai aims to address these challenges and help SMEs in Bangladesh to grow and thrive. It offers a cloud-based self-service platform, which SMEs could use for various purposes including running digital ads, marketing, and advertising solutions, managing accounts such as sending a digital invoice to customers and tracking the sales and revenue of their business.”
SME Vai is also building a service marketplace that provides a listing of service providers in one place ranging from printing and packaging services, legal services, and much more.
Let’s dig deeper into the major services of SME Vai.
SME Vai has built an automated invoicing and accounting system that could take the pain out of account management for SMEs. Using SME Hishab, anyone can create digital invoices and send them to customers instantly through email or text messages.
SME Hishab also enables businesses to record and track all their transactions and generate real-time sales graph. It reports average sales, growths, and comparison over periods of time.
Marketing remains a key challenge for SMEs. As we mentioned earlier, nearly 60% of SMEs surveyed by the Daily Star reported that not knowing how to market their products hamper their growth.
SME Vai has developed a slew of marketing services for SMEs. SMEVai offers digital marketing solutions such as Facebook Boost and YouTube Ads, SMS marketing, printing, and packaging solution, etc. at a reasonable cost. All the services are available both as self-serve service as well as managed customer packages.
A marketplace for SMEs to manage and grow their business
Finding verified service providers is a challenge for most SMEs. “SMEs often face challenges when it comes to finding suitable business service providers for their various needs including marketing, accounting to sales, IT and beyond,” added Sadrul Hasan, the person in charge of SME Vai’s operations.
There is almost no marketplace that offers solutions to SMEs. It is often an uphill battle for SMEs when it comes to finding suitable vendors for solutions such as printing and packaging, shipping, marketing and so on, which often makes doing business costly for SMEs.
SME Vai aims to fill this gap by positioning itself as a one-stop service marketplace for SMEs in Bangladesh.
The platform says it does both i.e. offering its own in-house solutions such as marketing and advertising services as well as building a marketplace of service providers verified through a standard process to ensure the quality of services for SMEs. The ambition is to build a platform where SMEs could find all their services need in one place.
Businesses services and solutions for SMEs is a big market. Some 80% of all enterprises in Bangladesh are SMEs. Compared to that, there are few initiatives that offer meaningful solutions to SMEs to help them grow their business. Mahadi Sagor says “our ambition is to help SMEs grow and solve the major pain points on their path to achieving that growth.”
Many of the challenges facing SMEs in Bangladesh are well known in nature as we discussed earlier in this essay. However, they are not easy to solve because while most of the challenges sound uniform in nature, in reality they are not.
SME Vai says it understands this reality of the market. Saimum Hossain echoes the team’s vision by saying that the entire point of SME Vai platform is to empower SMEs and help them to reduce their cost of doing business while helping them to grow revenue through effective marketing and business management solutions. If SME Vai succeeds, it would likely bring about a revolution for SMEs in Bangladesh.
Learn more about SME Vai here.
This is a branded content produced in collaboration with SME Vai, a sister concern of GEEKY Social Ltd.