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  • Writer's pictureSaurabh Pangarkar

Building a Competitive Edge: Leveraging AI for Business Growth

AI is poised to transform every business-big or small. The humongous computing power made available by modern computers, cloud and edge computing has made it possible for businesses across the scale to leverage AI to achieve paradigm-redefining success. The sheer scale of data that is generated today empowers all manner of businesses to achieve levels of success which were previously unimaginable for them.

While large enterprises may have access to greater resources including the manpower required to effectively harness the capabilities of AI, it is now possible for small businesses to do that as well and significantly scale up operations. In this article we shall dwell on how small businesses can use AI effectively and the tools they can use to do so, accruing huge advantages for their businesses in the process.

How AI Benefits Small Businesses

AI can help small businesses give much larger companies a run for their money by transforming their operations faster than the latter. Any resource constraints that were impediments to their growth can be overcome in the following ways:

  • Automating Workflows

The most transformative aspect of the application of AI to business processes is its ability to automate mundane and time-consuming tasks and processes that are usually prone to errors. These include things like bookkeeping, billing, scheduling, inventory management and customer service. Doing so frees up time, money and resources for small businesses allowing them to focus on more strategic and core tasks.

  • Enhancing Customer Experience

AI can help improve and enhance customer experience substantially by providing customized recommendations, offers and other kinds of support that are fully commensurate with customer preferences, behavior and feedback. Furthermore, it can help foster better engagement with customers by allowing small businesses to create captivating interactive content which can be shared via chatbots, videos and games. This leads to happier and more loyal clients and customers.

  • Obtaining Insights

AI can enable small businesses to make smarter choices, optimize their performance and discover newer opportunities by obtaining critical insight from cutting-edge data analysis. It does so by empowering small businesses to gather, process and analyze large amounts of data from myriad sources like social media, web traffic, sales records and customer feedback. At the same time, AI can also help small businesses create reports, dashboards and visualizations that allow them to get a handle on their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

Why AI Integration is Critically Important for Small Businesses

It is critically important for small businesses to integrate AI into their systems, as that will be the only way forward in the digital era. Doing so not only helps businesses improve their products and services thereby improving customer experiences, but also majorly brings down costs and increases efficiency. At the same time, AI can help small businesses obtain a competitive edge over their larger competitors and discover ever-new opportunities for innovation and growth.

Challenges Faced by Small Firms while Implementing AI

While it is all very well for small businesses to want to scale up and compete with the big boys by implementing AI, they would likely face a few challenges along the way. Let us look at what these might be:

  1. Cost: AI requires a fair amount of initial investment by way of purchase of the necessary software, hardware and related infrastructure. Besides, there are several ongoing costs in the shape of maintenance, updates and employee training which can stretch the limited budgets of small businesses. While there are a few AI tools in the market that show a lot of promise in terms of both their performance and reasonable pricing, AI implementation largely still tends to be expensive and needs to be budgeted for by any small business hoping to leverage the technology.

  2. Limited Access to Talent: AI implementation requires specialized skills and expertise for a business to fully utilize its potential. Small businesses may find it difficult to hire and retain qualified people who could help them implement and operate AI solutions that would work best for them. This is a very serious stumbling block when it comes to small businesses going in for AI, but things should get better with time as the technology itself evolves and becomes more affordable.

  3. Availability of Quality Data: AI is driven by vast amounts of quality data, which it needs to produce accurate and reliable insights. Small businesses may not possess the wherewithal to access the right data sources and would likely also face challenges in collecting, organizing and cleaning data to ensure its consistency and quality.

  4. Data Privacy and Security: Data privacy and security are major international concerns in the digital age. As AI involves processing sensitive and personal data sourced from customers, employees and partners, small businesses need to step up to the plate and ensure compliance with any data protection regulations. A large part of that has to do with safeguarding their data against unauthorized access or misuse.

  5. Ethical and Social Implications: The wide-scale adoption of AI has created a lot of apprehensions globally about its ethical and social ramifications. The recent Hollywood writers' strike is an example of people fearing loss of livelihood due to the advent of AI. Any unintended adverse consequences with regard to human values, rights and behaviors need to be taken into consideration before any enterprise integrates AI into an existing process or system. This is as true of small businesses who too need to take into account any ethical concerns or social impact their adopting AI may lead to. It is incumbent upon them to ensure that they are fair, transparent and accountable about the adoption of AI by their organization.

What Small Businesses Can Do to Facilitate the Adoption of AI

While integrating AI into their business functions by small businesses will come with its fair share of challenges, there are a few things they can do to ease the process. Let us take a look at some of the steps they can take to make that happen.

  1. Familiarizing Themselves with AI: Small businesses hoping to leverage AI for their businesses need to first familiarize themselves with what cutting-edge AI can accomplish concerning their specific industry and goals. Doing so will put them in a good position to induct AI into their system in an optimal manner.

  2. Having a Clear Idea of What AI will Accomplish for the Business: Any small business toying with the idea of implementing AI within their systems should be absolutely clear about what exactly they want it to accomplish. They should be able to prioritize the areas where the deployment of AI will add the most value and solve the most pressing problems.

  3. Roping in the Experts: Implementing AI is something that requires the skills of a specialist. Any small business seeking to use AI processes in their business would do well to rope in the experts to help them go ahead with their plans.

  4. Setting Up a Pilot Project: Any business that seeks to implement AI processes needs to exercise an abundance of caution before going ahead full steam. It makes eminent sense to test the waters by first setting up a pilot project and seeing how that goes in terms of feasibility and effectiveness.

  5. Starting Small: Any small business seriously contemplating the use of AI to enhance its business processes needs to start on a small scale. It would make eminent sense to start with simple and low-risk AI applications that are capable of achieving quick wins and amply demonstrate the potential of AI technology.

  6. Making Allowance for Storage as Part of the AI Plan: Small businesses need to make an allowance for storage requirements with regard to AI technology. This entails ensuring that there are adequate and secure storage solutions for their data and models.

Small enterprises that have successful deployed AI

  1. Niramai: Niramai is a Bangalore based medical research company that has effectively leveraged AI to help their process deliver better results. They do so by using thermography and machine learning to detect the presence of breast cancer at an earlier stage making treatment outcomes better. By doing so the company has done away with the use of invasive procedures like mammograms, thereby making cancer screening more affordable and accessible for people.

  2. Bloom & Wild: UK based flower delivery company Bloom & Wild deploys AI to deliver personalized customer service. It does so by analysing customer data and preference to arrive at a perfect recommendation of bouquet and gifts. The company believes that AI has helped it enhance both its customer service and sales.

  3. Tailored Brands: Tailored Brands is a USA based men’s clothing company that uses AI to recommend products to customers as well as to optimize its supply chain.


We are in the midst of a technological revolution that is fundamentally altering the very nature of how we live life. In a scenario such as this adaptability to the changes that unfold around us will shape the destinies of individuals, businesses and organizations. The successful implementation of AI by small business organizations is a necessary prerequisite of success in the times that we live. It is, therefore, not a question of whether this needs to be, but when and how.





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