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Rural MSMEs need to be digitally empowered

Using digital tools will not only help expand the market reach, but also make access to finance easier


India has embarked on an economic and digital revolution and is gearing up to emerge as the third-largest global economy. But the transformative power of technology is yet to fully benefit micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs), which serve as the backbone of India’s economic fabric, contributing to around 30 per cent of India’s GDP.

The country has taken commendable steps with initiatives like Digital India, the Unified Payments Interface (UPI), and the AI-powered language translation platform ‘Bhashini’ to promote digital and financial inclusion. Programmes to boost the potential of MSMEs, such as the Udyam portal, the MSME Champions portal, the Government e-Marketplace (GeM), and others, will further help in this sector’s growth.

But a majority of MSME units in rural areas, run by women, SC-ST and other marginalised groups, do not have access to basic digital tools. The larger units have yet not fully embraced artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), which are crucial for establishing connection and customer-centricity. AI tools can also analyse critical factors such as traffic, real-time road conditions and weather forecasts, which will help avoid unnecessary detours and minimise logistical delays. No one solution exists that will fit the needs of all MSMEs, especially when the world is fast progressing towards Industry 4.0. This crucial sector needs augmentation of the all-important digital infrastructure by multi-stakeholders, to empower MSMEs at large.

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