Mobile workforce among Indian SMEs rising fast

From a level of 22% in 2006, the percentage of Indian SMEs (companies with up to 999 employees) with a "mobile workforce," or employees who need to regularly travel on business for a minimum of four or five days in a month is now as high as 43%. A study by Access Markets International (AMI) Partners Inc looks at the telecoms implications.

As many as 43% of PC-owning small and medium businesses (SMBs, or companies with up to 999 employees) in India now have a "mobile workforce," or employees who need to regularly travel on business for a minimum of four or five days in a month. This is compared to 22% about two years ago, according to a recent study by Access Markets International (AMI) Partners, Inc.

"The need to constantly be on the move has increased recently, as India's SMBs have become more aware of the importance of improving relationships with their business partners, customers and suppliers," says Manashi Dey, Analyst at AMI-Partners. "The Indian economy is rapidly changing. This will create new challenges for youth entering the workforce with newer, varied and ever-changing job options. The need for a more flexible and mobile workforce requires newer skills and greater adaptability among the youth."

"The traveling is mostly limited within the same city or state - especially for SBs," Ms Dey continues. "However, MBs regularly travel to other states - a few of them also travel overseas on business." As a result, mobile workforce penetration among MBs has reached 72%.

The most vital mobility tool for SMBs is the mobile phone - which allows employees to keep in touch with their headquarters, back-offices and also their other mobile and remotely-located employees. Cellular phone usage has reached near-saturation among India's PC-owning SMBs. Some of the commonly used mobile applications among India SMBs are instant messaging, e-mail and mobile calendar and contact information.

Notebook PCs are another important mobility tool for SMBs. Laptop penetration is increasing fast, especially among Indian MBs. Notebook PC usage is higher among MBs at 70%. Indeed, notebook PC spending is set to rise by 32% this year among SMBs.

SBs are realising the role of notebooks as important mobility devices, and 37% indicated mobility as a key purchase-driver of notebook PCs, while another 43% said they prefer buying notebook PCs due to their in-built WiFi capabilities.

"Some of the key factors influencing notebook PC growth are the rapidly decreasing price gap between notebooks and desktops and the introduction of newer and attractive features in notebooks," says Manashi Dey. "Notebook PC vendors are now bundling in wireless LAN capabilities with all newer models."

Due to the increased usage of mobility among Indian SMBs, wireless penetration is also set to go up. Currently, its usage is rather embryonic. About one-tenth of SMBs deploy WLAN. This will no doubt rise, especially among MBs, to about one-fourth this year.

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