DBS Bank is developing an online business-to-business (B2B) marketplace so that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) can sell goods and services to large companies, even multinationals.
The platform will give SMEs access to supply chain connections, as well as financing and payment solutions that are usually only open to large corporations.
The portal, which is being supported by 99%SME partners Mediacorp, Mastercard and Singtel, is expected to be launched by the end of the year.
The 99%SME initiative helps SMEs to digitalise operations so that they can keep pace with technological shifts. In the past three years, it has helped more than 7,000 firms go digital by listing their products and services online.
Ms Joyce Tee, DBS' group head of SME banking, said yesterday: "This is the industry's first portal that brings together large corporates, multinationals and SMEs. It will be a step forward in fostering a spirit of innovation and collaboration."
DBS and Singtel will also be enhancing the business-to-consumer (B2C) e-marketplace on the 99%SME portal next month.
Currently, listings lead consumers to Lazada's website to complete their purchases, but after the enhancement, consumers will be able to buy products such as cakes, beauty products and furniture directly off the 99%SME portal.
This will give SMEs that are unsure about how to tap into online sales channels instant access to an online "shopfront" where consumers can browse and buy services and goods across different categories at the click of a button.
This will also help SMEs grow beyond Singapore's shores and expand their customer base regionally and globally.
Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing, who attended the launch event, urged large local enterprises to support local SMEs in their efforts to go regional, even global.
He likened these large local enterprises to "queen bees" that lead the way for the smaller firms to compete on the world stage.
Mr Chan added that the e-commerce platform is a very good way for SMEs to transcend their limitations of scale and resources to access overseas markets.
He noted that the online sales SMEs can make on Singles' Day, Nov 11, a popular shopping date in China, can be equivalent to what they shift over a three-month period in Singapore.
A DBS survey of 200 SME customers early this month found that while 70 per cent admitted that e-commerce channels and solutions would help drive growth, 60 per cent said they did not have sufficient knowledge about digital sales channels, and the resources and manpower required to digitalise their businesses.
Mr Bill Chang, chief executive of group enterprise at Singtel, said the telco itself has had "a front-row seat to the digital tsunami" as it saw its traditional revenue from voice calls and SMS eroded by the mobile Internet revolution.
This forced it to make massive and rapid gear shifts to put data and digital at the centre of its business six years ago.
He believes this makes the telco well placed to help SMEs that are embarking on a digital transformation. "Going digital isn't something to be feared," he said, as he likewise called on large businesses in Singapore to join hands with DBS and Singtel to give SMEs a leg up in their digital transformation journey.