Kazakh small, medium businesses embrace digitisation and automation

NUR-SULTAN – Economic studies show small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) will be the main drivers of national economies in the coming years. While digital transformation and automation is on everyone’s lips, the topic is not usually addressed regarding SMEs and the implementation speed in this sector has been lagging. The Astana Times talked to Lyaila Uzakova, an expert in business digitisation, to discuss the main trends in Kazakh business.

Lyaila Uzakova

“Kazakh business currently demonstrates a strong automation trend – big businesses and national companies introduce IT solutions to optimise activities. Here, I would like to stress that national companies are now showing great progress in automating their business and digitising governmental services. I think that the EGOV (eGovernment) project is a big achievement; Kazakhstan now leads in digitisation of governmental services among CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) countries. I believe that large nationwide projects like EGOV give an impetus to development of the IT solutions industry in Kazakhstan,” she said.

Uzakova noted she is pleased to see the way the IT community is strengthening.

“Astana Hub makes a big contribution to the development of the IT industry in Kazakhstan. It attracts young talents and investors and provides the platform for Kazakh IT products to emerge on the market. Thanks to better IT education, we now have many young IT professionals who are very enthusiastic about creating their products. There are a few IT companies offering local IT products developed based on foreign developments, but adapted to the requirements of Kazakh business in different industries. Damu CRM (customer relationship management) is among them. We are partners and I am always happy to support our local IT developers. I see great potential there,” she said.

Although Kazakh small businesses are not as active in digitisation and automation as big companies, she sees some progress.

“There are medium businesses which grew to the level of introducing CRM systems to monitor their daily operations. They usually purchase such systems as Bitrix and AMO CRM. Terrasoft or BPM Online CRM are rather rare choices for Kazakh business. As I mentioned before, we also have local CRM products which are tailored to the specifics of Kazakh companies,” said Uzakova.

The majority of the medium-sized companies often do not know which product will best suit their business. To choose the right system, enterprises should analyse their business processes.

“At this stage, it is very important to use an integral approach based on close cooperation between industry professionals and IT specialists. The reality is that they work mostly as separate groups, which influences the quality of the final product. The lack of professionals with knowledge both in the industry and IT is a major problem in adapting any IT product to the needs of a certain company,” she noted.

Small businesses continue to explore digitisation and automation options.

“There are many cheap and even free, simple IT solutions for small business; however, small business owners are not ready to use them because of the lack of IT knowledge and background,” she added. “I am sure that the situation will change with time, because small business is booming in Kazakhstan. We see that the small bakeries or clothing stores start their business in Almaty or Astana, grow and then expand to the regions. Digitisation/automation is a key issue for small businesses, because there is always a threat from large chains. Small business owners should avoid micromanagement using IT systems and think more about the strategic prospects of their business. In case of expanding to other cities, IT solutions will help business owners to control the process remotely.”

Uzakova is one of the founders of RedQoo, an online education platform. She developed a range of online and offline courses on strategic and operational management, project management and online marketing, as well as applied online micro-training on mind maps, content management, creating a website and blog, SEO, etc. Her online courses are also available on Udemy, a popular online learning and teaching marketplace.

“I believe that IT companies developing solutions for Kazakh business should cooperate to create a market which is not currently in place. We should educate business owners and explain to them that their investment in business digitisation and automation will convert into better service, escape from daily micromanagement and ultimately cut costs. Thus, we will prepare the market and maximise our opportunities to sell our services in the future,” she said.

Uzakova is planning to launch an offline school for small business owners this summer.

“We will have agile mini groups for effective teamwork. The theory and practice will go together in our trainings.  We will focus on analysis of business and application of low-budget IT solutions for mind mapping, marketing content, website creation, email marketing, chat bots, organisation of teamwork, sales funnel, data base and archive creation, etc.,” she said.

“The situation in small business will change with educating business owners and the coming of the young generation of entrepreneurs to the stage,” she added.

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