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When Wei Chan took over his family business 13 years ago, he grappled with a conundrum faced by most small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) – the lack of IT literacy and support that stood in the way of digital transformation.
Not only did his relatives not know what a computer was, he also had to get his hands dirty without any IT support as he went about transforming Pine Garden, a family-owned cake shop known in Singapore for its green-coloured sponge cake. “We had to make our own name cards and draw up POs [purchase orders] without any help,” said Chan.
Over the last two years, SMEs such as Pine Garden have been tapping into 99% SME, a network of experts and resources pulled together by telco Singtel and DBS Bank to help SMEs harness digital tools and build the capabilities they need to compete in the digital age. These include free training in e-commerce and cashless payment tools, as well as wider exposure at sales carnivals.
This year, SMEs can look forward to more support, with a new online marketplace for SMEs to list their wares for free as part of a tie-up with Lazada, Southeast Asia’s biggest e-commerce website. DBS will also roll out new services with preferential pricing and fee waivers to encourage SMEs to adopt cashless payments and e-commerce.
To help SMEs optimise their spending on digital advertisements, Singtel has also launched Adtiq, a cloud-based app for planning and creating digital advertising campaigns. Both Google and Singtel will provide the necessary training for SMEs to make the most of the app.
With many SMEs lacking the talent they need to transform digitally, Singtel has also roped in students from Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP) to assist companies with e-commerce, retail analytics and digital marketing.
Thye Shan Medical Hall, a supplier of traditional Chinese medicine and treatment services in Singapore, is currently working with a group of NYP students to promote its products on digital platforms, according to its general manager Chan Mei Yi.
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- Frequency fees will be waived to lower regulatory barriers and optimise deployment of 5G networks in Singapore.
- Enterprise tech giant HPE will invest $140m over five years in its new regional headquarters in Singapore and a startup incubator programme.
- The computer networks of two universities in Singapore were breached in April 2017 by hackers looking to steal information related to government or research.
- Singapore will form a consortium of universities and research institutions to deepen its expertise in data science and analytics, as part of its efforts to become the world’s first smart nation.
Equipping SMEs with digital tools and expertise, however, is not enough. Speaking at the launch of this year’s 99% SME campaign, Singapore’s finance minister Heng Swee Keat said SMEs need to have the right mindset of being willing to adapt, and to be quick to see and seize new opportunities.
“When this mindset is paired with the right tools and partners, a company has a fighting chance to ride the changes well,” he said, adding that Singapore’s SMEs Go Digital programme was conceived to provide more support for Singapore SMEs in their digital transformation journey.
Under the programme, SMEs can get access to as many as 50 pre-approved IT products, ranging from fleet management and supply chain integration to biometric authentication systems, as well as advice on technologies to deploy at each stage of their growth.
“As change gets more complex, the right tools and partners will make all the difference,” said Heng. “We can minimise the disadvantages of being a small country and maximise the advantages of being nimble and entrepreneurial – by working as one in innovative ways and collaborating to create good opportunities for our businesses and workers.”