(COLOMBO, LANKAPUVATH) – An imperative for digital innovation in Sri Lanka has helped small and medium enterprises (SMEs) realize that they must embrace digital transformation to engage with their key stakeholders to maintain relevance, reach new customers and drive the conversation. However, few realize how fast the change needs to happen, or how transformational it needs to be.
The Ministry of Industry and Commerce has identified SMEs as a strategic sector in the Government’s overall policy objectives. The vast majority of SMEs are believed to be a driver of change for inclusive economic growth, regional development, employment generation, and poverty reduction.
SMEs account for more than 75% of the total number of enterprises in Sri Lanka, provides 45% of the employment and contributes to 52% of the Gross Domestic Production (National Policy Framework for Small Medium Enterprise Development, Ministry of Industry and Commerce). They also promote broad-based equitable development and provide more opportunity for female and youth participation in the economic development of the country.
In a bid to support the national agenda and implement measures to boost growth in this sector, Microsoft has gone to great lengths to help local SMEs with access to funds, technology, and the technical know-how to expand their enterprises.
Workshops for SMEs
Over 50 workshops have been held to uplift local SMEs in the last two years either directly by Microsoft or through its partner eco-system, engaging over 500+ businesses and featuring esteemed guest speakers who delivered dynamic Q&A sessions that touched on all key aspects of digitalization and digital transformation.
The workshop series was launched in mid-2018 to help business owners access the capabilities and skills necessary to expand their enterprises and export to the global market. Aside from delivering valuable training and insights that promote innovation and collaboration in the workplace, the workshops also provided an overview of the tailor-made facilities and products that Microsoft offers SMEs.
The free workshops focused on business productivity gains in the latest versions of Windows 10, Office 365, and Azure Cloud Computing Platform that provide the best accessibility experiences, how to make your small business more secure, and more.
Partnerships with Government Institutions and Industry Bodies
Governments today have to fulfill more roles than ever before: from traditional roles as providers of public order and public goods to more recent ones like convening, aggregating and facilitating discussions among communities with diverging interests.
Faced with these growing demands, governments can either hire more in a bid to keep up or craft ways to distribute some of the burdens to businesses, civil society, and even individual citizens.
In 2018, Microsoft signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Ministry of Telecommunication, Digital Infrastructure, and Foreign Employment. The MoU is the realization of the country’s e-Government Policy and plans for Digital Transformation. The salient features of the MoU are the establishment and implementation of:
- The digital transformation blueprint for the government of Sri Lanka
- Public sector capacity building and productivity enhancement
- A software procurement program to ensure a secure and seamless collaborative working environment for the public sector for better citizen services
- A cybersecurity risk assessment across the government and security program
- Skills development for students with a special focus on the implementation of “Smart Classrooms” and digital education
- Technical assistance and expertise on the e-Gov policy and plan
In 2019, Microsoft then partnered with the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce to help SMEs in over seven vertical markets discover the importance of trust, security, and compliance.
Partnerships with the Government of Sri Lanka have allowed the software company to “foster small enterprises to grow into medium-sized enterprises and medium-sized enterprises to grow into large enterprises and large enterprises to grow into globally competitive enterprises” (Ministry of Industry and Commerce).
With the Ministry of Industry and Commerce stating that the SME sector is a hotbed for growth and development, Microsoft also believes that enhancing national and international competitiveness will be necessary to ensure success.
“SMEs in Sri Lanka have a strong potential for driving growth through technology adoption and we’re committed to providing business owners with the insights, tools, and support to promote innovation,” says Ashiq Niyaz, SMC/SMB Territory Channel Manager for Microsoft Sri Lanka and Maldives. “SMEs will also need to future-proof themselves with robust IT infrastructure to sustain growth and scale-up their business. Microsoft will continue to play a pivotal role in promoting inclusive economic growth, regional development, employment generation, and poverty reduction.”
ScaleUp: Incentives for emerging SMEs
Microsoft also has global programs to help grow, build, and connect startups, with a commitment of $500 million to Microsoft for startups globally. Microsoft for Startups provides technical, product, and go-to-market benefits to accelerate startup growth.
In 2019, Microsoft welcomed PickMe, the taxi-hailing app developed and maintained by Digital Mobility Solutions Lanka (Pvt) Ltd, and software vendor Linear Squared (Pvt) Ltd to the ScaleUp program. ScaleUp is an immersive program with sales, marketing, and technical support, helping startups hone their infrastructure and build their businesses.
“At Microsoft, we recognize the importance of identifying and supporting businesses of the future. Programs, like ScaleUp, do a fantastic job of supporting micro enterprises in their scale up stage as we lend our support to small and medium enterprises. As a company with a mission to empower every person and organization on the planet to achieve more, Microsoft is committed to helping SMEs in Sri Lanka realize their full potential through technology,” notes Hasitha Abeywardena, Country Manager for Microsoft Sri Lanka and Maldives.
From idea to IPO, Microsoft is uniquely equipped to support startups at every stage of your journey. Whether it’s technology enablement, business growth through accelerators and venture funding, or connecting you with customers, learn how we can help you grow.
“We believe technology can only change people’s lives when they have access to the capabilities and the benefits it provides. We will continue to invest in our greatest assets—our technology, people, grants, and voice—to advance a more equitable Sri Lanka where the benefits of technology are accessible to everyone.”
With the endless possibilities that digital transformation can bring to Sri Lanka, Microsoft is committed to helping businesses accelerate their digital transformation journeys. The company is encouraging enterprises in Sri Lanka to accelerate their customer reach with 50% Off on Office 365 Business Essentials and 20% Off on Office 365 Business Premium.
To learn more, visit https://www.microsoft.com/en-lk/.