Covid-19 has hit SMEs hard with drops in revenue and staff layoffs the most common impacts of the pandemic for small businesses, according to a recent metasurvey by the Small Business Institute (SBI).

Trabel, a Cape-based technology development company, says innovation by South Africa’s telcos that prioritises slashing monthly subscription costs, in particular, could shore up the country’s small and medium-sized business sector by immediately reducing operational outlays.

“Out-the-box thinking geared towards small businesses, consultants and sole proprietors that does away with most fixed telecoms costs in favour of more flexible offerings would go along way towards reducing the burden on SMEs,” says Anton Potgieter, MD of Trabel.

“A small businessperson should rarely – if ever – be paying monthly subscriptions for ICT services. Fixed telecoms costs are an unnecessary drag on SMEs trying desperately to make it to the next stage of the business lifecycle,” explains Potgieter.

Trabel, for its part, has recently committed itself to supporting South Africa’s single phone line SMEs by confirming that it will never charge them both a monthly subscription and a line rental.

The firm launched its NoPBX smartphone-based switchboard solution at the end of last year and uptake amongst SMEs has been strong. NoPBX facilitates remote and hybrid working for SMEs because it enables the small business owner to transform their usual cellphone into a business switchboard simply by registering online with NoPBX, and then downloading the free NoPBX app.

Unlike VoIP PBX solutions that require a fair degree of technical proficiency, this GSM-based switchboard can easily be set up and managed by any existing smartphone user. “With NoPBX, complicated voice over data streams that are prone to call quality issues make way for cellular simplicity controlled through your regular phone dialler app,” says Potgieter.

There is an enormous pool of thriving small businesses that currently operate from a single line or more commonly a cellphone. As much as they would benefit from a PBX system, they are too small to justify one under the pricing strategies of the usual telco providers.

The NoPBX architecture and fully-distributed approach to providing service reinvents the way of looking at a one-line business and the result is a pricing model perfect for single line businesses.

Operating a business from a personal cellphone number is neither professional nor practical, especially when a one user “PBX” on NoPBX costs only R65.00 per month (ex VAT). This includes a free business number, free inbound business calls direct to your mobile, the NoPBX smartphone app to make outbound business calls, and company voicemail.

The proprietary NoPBX app is available on both Android and iOS, and one can upgrade your NoPBX to multiple users at any time with a few clicks of your mouse, while keeping your same business number.

Potgieter concludes: “Collaboration in the age of the pandemic does not begin and end with Zoom. Affordable, voice-based communication over mobile remains the small business owner’s preference. Now, let’s innovate, and marry this with a full professional business image.”