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South African SMEs turn to technology for growth and continuity amidst economic challenges

Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in South Africa face challenging times with rand/dollar volatility, inflation, low economic growth, and load shedding putting their strength and resilience to the test. SMEs need to be flexible, efficient, and innovative to survive—with many turning to technology to help them navigate the complex and fast-changing environment.

Barry Venter, CEO of Total Workspace Solutions provider, Nashua, says that the business landscape has changed dramatically since the start of the pandemic in 2020. Although the COVID-19 crisis is behind us, many of its legacies remain, including a deeper appreciation for the role of technology in driving efficiencies and enhancing competitiveness.

“During the pandemic, we saw SMEs turn to mobile connectivity and cloud applications to enable remote and hybrid working models,” says Venter. “Now, with the pandemic over, SMEs are looking at how technology can help them address business continuity challenges such as frequent level-6 load shedding.”

“The accelerated move towards digitalisation and hybrid work in the SME sector during the pandemic didn’t come out of nowhere”, says Venter,” but was an acceleration of an existing trend. For the past decade or more, Nashua has watched the world of work changing as mobile technologies, digital platforms and cloud computing matured and became more accessible to SMEs.”

Predicting that these technology advances would transform where and how we work, Nashua was already repositioning itself from an office automation company into a total workspace solutions provider before the pandemic. “In today’s world, the workspace isn’t just the office, but anywhere you can access an internet connection,” says Venter.

“Working from home or a coffee shop is just the start. Today’s digitalised workspaces include the mine shaft, the factory floor, the school room, or the farm. An SME can capture data and transact at any point where it carries out a process. This enables businesses of all sizes to do more with less resources and do it faster, all while delivering a better customer service and becoming more flexible.”

50 years of partnering with SMEs

Nashua, which has a 50-year history of helping SMEs to improve efficiencies and grow their businesses, adjusted its strategy in 2013 to include all elements of workspace management. It was at this point that Nashua started to build a solutions portfolio that includes voice, connectivity, surveillance and access control, computer hardware and software, alternative energy, and smart solutions.

Says Venter: “Back then, we were already seeing our SME customers look for ways to use technology to become more agile and resilient. But the challenge that many faced was getting good, independent advice about what tech they needed as well as accessing the skills to put it all together. We recognised that we could play an expanded role in their business as a workspace solutions firm.”

Venter says that it is Nashua’s closeness to customers and the community that have inspired its progress over the years. The company has, for example, stepped in to help SMEs to thrive through crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the floods and riots in Kwa-Zulu Natal. Its franchisees come out of the communities the company serves and understands the challenges local SMEs are facing.

Nashua has a vision and purpose of working with its franchisees to help create sustainable businesses in prosperous communities. “Through our sports sponsorships, corporate social investments and franchise networks, we have created ecosystems that help communities to thrive,” says Venter. “But our starting point is helping SMEs to navigate their business challenges.”

A complete suite of workspace solutions

SMEs are asking themselves questions such as: How do we navigate infrastructural challenges such as water, transport, and power outages? What can we do to protect ourselves against physical and cyber-crime? How can we grow our business and stretch our resources further against a difficult economic backdrop?

Nashua’s role is to deliver answers to these questions, with its key offerings including:

  • Workspace solutions: SMEs need business infrastructure solutions that increase efficiency, boost productivity, and cut operating expenses. Nashua offers a wide range of infrastructure solutions including computer hardware, voice, telephony, office accessories and consumables, digital interactive whiteboards, and managed document solutions to help your business run simpler, faster, and smarter.
  • Print solutions: After 50 years, Nashua remains the leading printer and copier provider in Southern Africa. The company offers industry-leading office products including multifunctional printing devices, colour laser printers, wide format printers and high-volume printing devices as well as print management solutions designed to save time, manage costs, and eliminate wastage.
  • Connectivity: Nashua works with Southern Africa’s leading connectivity providers to bring SMEs enterprise-grade, cost-effective internet connectivity solutions that are tailored to their needs and support the growth of their businesses. Whether it’s a fibre or a wireless solution, Nashua offers best-of-breed voice and data solutions that enable SMEs to compete efficiently.
  • Alternative energy: Nashua provides a wide array of alternate energy solutions to keep SMEs up and running through power outages. Coupled with financing options, these solutions will enable SMEs to minimise downtime, reduce electricity costs, and significantly improve their green footprint. They range from simple back-up options to complete solutions for going partially or completely off-grid.
  • Surveillance and access control solutions: Nashua offers solutions to help SMEs protect property, people, and assets. Its comprehensive surveillance solutions include IP, thermal, and analogue CCTV cameras as well as to 24/7 365 indoor and outdoor monitoring and automatic number plate recognition. Nashua’s physical and electronic access control solutions help SMEs manage access to their business.

Solving business problems for SMEs nationwide

“Our business has grown along with the technology industry as it evolved from analogue to digital. But the core of our success has always been the way that our franchisees help their customers to navigate change and solve their business problems,” says Venter. “With 42 franchises across Southern Africa and a presence in five countries, we can help SMEs wherever they are.”

“Nashua is keeping up with the latest trends as the move towards hybrid work and self-healing infrastructure accelerates”, says Venter. “We’re integrating the strands of our business to offer seamless workspace solutions,” he adds. “We’re investing in new solutions such as the Internet of Things to deliver higher uptime and remote service.”

Venter says that Nashua plans to continue working closely with its franchisees to create smart ecosystems that enable businesses and communities to thrive. “Most of our customers use two or more of our services, indicating their preference for integrated solutions,” he says. “The challenge we all face is futureproofing our business and mitigating risk, in turn protecting revenues and enabling growth.”

Nashua is a proud Platinum Partner of the NSBC

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