Microsoft, FirstBank push digital transformation of SMEs

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Multinational technology giant, Microsoft, has teamed up with First Bank in a partnership that will assist Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Nigeria to adopt digital transformation of their businesses.

The partnership, seen as a win-win for all parties, offers SMEs in Nigeria a more flexible way of accessing business tools that will aid their growth.

There is no gainsaying that today’s businesses grow faster if they adopt technology as it improves efficiency and profitability

The package offers SMEs the ability to purchase or renew Microsoft productivity tools at a discounted rate in Naira with flexible payment options.

Speaking at the FirstBank Microsoft SMEs Partnership Launch recently in Lagos, Gbenga Shobo, the bank’s Deputy Managing Director, said that the package is a way of giving back to the society to grow the economy.

”The SMEs can buy some of the Microsoft solutions at discounted rates, pay in naira as against the dollar, thereby removing the stress of exchange rate which is sometimes a challenge for the SMEs.

“They now have a portal where they can ask for advice on the products and some extra sales support we can also get Microsoft to give them.

“The SMEs may not have been able to get the Microsoft solutions and products on their own.

“We feel that SMEs are the major drivers of the economy in Nigeria today; because of the challenges of job creation, most people are setting up businesses.

“The SMEs segment is so important to the livelihood of many Nigerians, and we have seen that SMEs have the ability to grow.

“The more the SMEs grows, the more it is beneficial to the bank and the more the economy will grow,” he said.

According to Shobo, the target is to reach out to about 40 million SMEs and interested individuals across Nigeria.

For Wale Olokodana, Microsoft Business Group Lead, the partnership aims to drive the growth of SMEs within the Nigerian context by providing easy access to productivity tools, capacity building and a platform for SME education.

“We believe that productivity is very key to the success of our space, especially in trying moments where it can be difficult to get up and start working.

“So, I really hope SMEs will find value in the different solutions we have given to help to transform and empower businesses
to do well and reach out to people in Nigeria,” he said.

Taiwo Shonekan, First Bank Head Customer experience and Value Management, said that the key focus of First Bank was to ensure that its customers are supported and helping them grow their business.

She said that what the Microsoft Partnership does for SMEs customers was to help them use technology to help them drive efficiency and therefore profitability.

“The partnership would help them access the Microsoft office tools at a discount and at local currencies that always posed a problem which made so many resort to looking for someone that had a foreign account or try to purchase foreign currencies.

“In such situations, the SMEs are exposed to getting these tools in pirated version thereby exposing them to security issues,” she said.

Speaking during the digital tools partnership launch in Lagos recently, some SMEs who have benefitted from the package said they took advantage of the offer to transform their businesses.

Mrs Olu Aluko, Proprietress, Busy Bees Schools, Lagos said that she leveraged on the power of technology to standardise and automate her school’s administrative processes, smoothen its operation and generate more revenue.

The school proprietress said she is also using the Microsoft tools to streamline admission process, manage staff and student information, inventory as well as maintain financial records.

According to her, they have used it generate and print ID cards for both staff and students, manage fees, plan classes and generate
reports.

“We also generate circulars and SMS instantly and carry out effective communication with students and their parents or guardians,” she said.

Another small business owner, Cynthia Daniels, a Fashion Designer, said that she had to employ someone to do her inventory when she started her business but since she adopted the technology tools, there was more efficiency and profitability.

The good news is that Microsoft-First Bank partnership is also assisting Nigerian SMEs, among other benefits, to set up their own domain for corporate email addresses and offering them free capacity building in accounting, financial matters, inventory management, marketing and human resources. (NAN)

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