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5 AI insights for SMEs, from M’sian entrepreneurs who already apply them to their businesses

Whether we like it or not, it seems like the AI revolution is here, and it seems that it’s here to stay.

ChatGPT, for one, had set records for the fastest-growing user base in February 2023. Meanwhile, Microsoft has been preparing its Security Copilot following the US$10 billion investment into ChatGPT, Forbes reported.

Just like how the advancement of the internet brought endless possibilities for entrepreneurs (such as ecommerce and online marketing), AI should also be something that business owners and decision makers utilise to better their companies.

That’s why Owners Circle’s two-day conference was called Business Growth Summit 2023: The AI Revolution, with a mission to “discover the future of business in the age of artificial intelligence”.

Attending the first day of the summit, here were some lessons we picked up on while we were there.

1. AI itself won’t necessarily replace talents

Kicking off the summit, Jonathan Quek—the co-founder of Owners Circle—took the stage for the first sharing titled “The Rules Have Changed”.

The session included a poignant statement: “The key is not whether talents would be replaced by AI. In the age of AI, the question is ‘Will talents be replaced by someone else who knows how to use AI?’”

This is a mindset that would be reiterated throughout the event by different speakers. While many of the entrepreneurs pointed out that AI can enable a smaller, more efficient workforce, it’s not necessarily true that it will replace all employees.

But, as Jonathan said, it may replace those who don’t know how to utilise it.

2. There’s an AI tool for everything

The founder of Infront Consulting, Raymond Chou is a serial entrepreneur who has utilised AI in many of his projects and everyday life. Infront Consulting, a cloud capabilities and expertise consulting company, was acquired by Celcom Axiata in 2021.

During his talk titled “Master the Art of AI-Driven Leadership”,he showed just how much AI tools can do for businesses.

He highlighted a plethora of tools that entrepreneurs can add to their arsenal, from common ones like ChatGPT and Midjourney to some more obscure ones such as Lumivero’s @Risk, which does probabilistic risk analyses for businesses.

He showed how he was able to create a full-fledged marketing video using ChatGPT to write the copy and other platforms to make the videos and do voiceovers.

Raymond revealed later that he had prepared the slides for the talk a few days prior using AI, too.

The entrepreneur also highlighted the website as a key resource for entrepreneurs. It’s a website that curates a list of AI apps, letting users easily search up all kinds of tools based on their needs.

3. Investing in AI tools pays off

During his talk, Raymond also talked about how ChatGPT has two options now: the free one using GPT-3.5, and the paid one using GPT-4.0.

By a show of hands, it seemed like the majority of the room opted for the free version rather than the paid one.

However, Raymond shared that his US$20 investment in ChatGPT-4.0 has been worth it, as he uses the platform every single day for numerous analyses and other tasks.

He also pointed out that the money it would take to hire someone to do all that work would be higher anyway.

Of course, it’s not just simply investing in any tool. It’s important to invest in the right tools that fit the needs of the business, and ensure that employees are actually maximising the features.

4. You don’t need to be an AI expert to use it

Bevan Tan, the country manager of SHOPLINE, focused his talk about how AI can be used in omni-channel marketing. SHOPLINE itself is a platform enabling merchants to easily build online shops and deliver omnichannel experiences.

He shared a number of successful case studies of SHOPLINE clients, such as businesses who got ROAS (return on advertising spend) as high as 59.69, meaning that for every RM1 spent on the campaign, RM59.69 was made.

This was done through one of SHOPLINE’s services called Digital Marketing & Smart Ads Placement. Powered by AI, this tool is able to learn from the data available and come up with smarter digital marketing campaigns.

However, Bevan himself said that he doesn’t know the extent of what exactly the AI does and how it works.

Yet, the beauty of it is that himself and clients don’t need to understand how it works in order to see all the results.

In fact, he shared that the human assumption that entrepreneurs truly “know” their audience and their behaviours may come in the way of how ads perform. Putting aside one’s ego and believing that the AI knows better than you can help achieve results.

5. AI and automation can be used to keep that human touch

While it might sound ironic to some that using artificial intelligence can help with customer service or even sales, it can actually do wonders to help convert leads into customers.

At least, that was according to the last sharing of the day by Dickson Pua, the founder of Strive, a messaging and sales CRM (customer relationship management) platform.

It particularly focuses on offering CRM services on WhatsApp, with a motto of “smarter conversation for higher conversion”.

Essentially, by feeding information about a business to a chatbot, it can help automate routine processes such as qualifying whether a customer is even the right fit for your business.

It can also be used to turn leads from cold to warm, and warm to hot.

Letting AI tackle these lower-level tasks can help reserve the energy and time of human employees to handle more pressing issues and difficult conversations.

AI for enhancing entrepreneurship

It’s clear that there are many opportunities to integrate AI into businesses in order to help streamline processes and bring greater results, whether it’s regarding sales conversions or creating ad campaigns.

Once again though, AI should be seen as a powerful enabler, rather than an outright replacement for human expertise.

Like Jonathan said, it’s not about whether AI will replace talents. The same notion goes for entrepreneurs. Just because they don’t use AI doesn’t mean that other competitors won’t.

The talks during the first day of the summit showed that AI can be smartly utilised to free up the time of entrepreneurs.

This is not so they can just slack off—rather, the freed-up time can be used to focus on more important tasks that require that touch of human wit, such as strategic planning.

Learn more about Owners Circle here. Read other articles we’ve written about Malaysian startups here.

Also Read3 M’sian founders share their biggest business mistakes that made them better entrepreneurs

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