Contributing more than 22 percent to the GCC’s GDP, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are collectively creating new business opportunities and shaping the economy, whilst fast-tracking structural changes.
In the UAE, as much as 53 percent of the gross domestic product is contributed by SMEs. To sustain this momentum, SMEs need to stay on top of new platforms and advancements to retain their competitive edge and continue reaching a global audience. At a time when global trade has never been more accessible to smaller businesses, the success and realization of growth opportunities within the SME sector can be achieved by aspiring to enable seamless trade flows and customer service, alongside managing financial cash flow requirements, foreign currency reserves and customs clearance more efficiently. This is in addition to building an understanding of regulations and overcoming barriers such as language and cultural gaps.
To be able to grow and expand into new markets, SMEs should focus on marketing their strengths, leaving infrastructure and delivery of products to specialists. For the modern consumer today, deciding factors for choosing a brand goes beyond product features, with purchase decisions often influenced by delivery times, the availability of package information, and a seamless return or exchange process.
Technology and operational aspects aside, these businesses are ultimately driven by people; people who are the end-users of the products and services. Therefore, we encourage business owners to develop a keen understanding of the export market and gain an overview of local standards and the business environment.
Digitization has helped the logistics industry, who in turn support companies with online tools which can help manage customs and manage documentation online, boosting transparency and eliminating guesswork. Services such as calculating duties and taxes, paperwork support, and streamlining cross-border returns are capabilities now embedded within logistics service providers.
Your logistics provider can assist you with improving customer experience and managing costs, in addition to managing the challenges of cross border trading and delivering your products on time. Your logistics provider can also support you with the flexibility to scale your business without hiring additional staff, buying a fleet of vehicles or being involved with long-term building leases. Working as partners, business owners can collaborate with logistics providers to build a solid integrated supply chain, opening access to new markets and boosting revenue streams. Going one step further, they can even provide value-added suggestions and identify gaps that businesses don’t necessarily have visibility in.
SMEs across the world are mostly optimistic about the prospect of exporting despite perceived barriers. Findings from a specially commissioned global research study by FedEx Express indicate that SMEs in Latin America, the Caribbean, the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent and African regions are particularly bullish; approximately 70 percent see themselves doing international business and enjoying higher international revenues by the end of the decade.
At FedEx, we believe in the power of our global networks to connect people and possibilities around the world. In our experience, a strong national SME sector that has opportunities for growth into new markets, and reaching new customers not only helps those businesses prosper, but enables communities to flourish, and people to thrive. In short, a growing SME sector makes the world a better place for everyone involved.
My personal recommendation to businesses is to progress at a pace that suits them, and not feel pressured to go international before they are truly ready. Also, invest time in understanding your supply chain, work with your logistics provider to understand the real-world costs of delays and what the actual timelines might be. This will help you plan your business better.