Digital makeover for seven SMEs to spur innovation

CK Department Store and Angel Supermart are among the seven SMEs being guided by The FinLab. This is the third cycle of its acceleration programme but the first solely for SMEs. The FinLab is a joint venture between United Overseas Bank and SGInnovat
CK Department Store and Angel Supermart are among the seven SMEs being guided by The FinLab. This is the third cycle of its acceleration programme but the first solely for SMEs. The FinLab is a joint venture between United Overseas Bank and SGInnovate, a government-owned innovation platform.PHOTOS: SHIN MIN DAILY NEWS, LIANHE WANBAO
CK Department Store and Angel Supermart are among the seven SMEs being guided by The FinLab. This is the third cycle of its acceleration programme but the first solely for SMEs. The FinLab is a joint venture between United Overseas Bank and SGInnovat
CK Department Store and Angel Supermart are among the seven SMEs being guided by The FinLab. This is the third cycle of its acceleration programme but the first solely for SMEs. The FinLab is a joint venture between United Overseas Bank and SGInnovate, a government-owned innovation platform.PHOTOS: SHIN MIN DAILY NEWS, LIANHE WANBAO

Accelerator FinLab's resources being used to transform their business models

Seven local small and medium-sized enterprises are undergoing a digital makeover as part of a business transformation programme by accelerator The FinLab.

The SMEs are using resources provided by The FinLab's network of industry experts, mentors and technology leaders to develop digital capabilities.

The FinLab is a joint venture between United Overseas Bank and SGInnovate, a government-owned innovation platform.

The SMEs are CK Department Store, International Labs, Angel Supermart, Siam Coconut, Straits Dental Group, Lih Ming Construction and Acepac International.

They are being guided by The FinLab and its partners in a four-month programme that started late last month.

It aims to identify problems in their business and equip firms with the means to innovate.

When this ends in August, relevant solution providers - in particular, tech start-ups - will be introduced to the firms to pilot the most appropriate options.

Ms Janet Young, head of group channels and digitalisation at UOB, said SMEs that want to transform themselves must first have the right business model.

Through The FinLab, these SMEs would be able to connect with the right partners - as they transform their business models - to acquire the technological know-how to improve their operational performance and enhance their customer experience, she added.

This is the third cycle of The FinLab's accelerator programme but the first solely for SMEs. The previous two were targeted at start-ups.

FinLab managing director Felix Tan said it was after the first two cycles that they recognised an opportunity to facilitate the adoption of technology by connecting SMEs with the start-ups that created the solutions.

He added: "We have selected SMEs that have the desire to stay relevant and to thrive in the digital economy by innovating and remaining agile to participate in our programme."

One of those SMEs is CK Department Store, a local retail chain that sells daily necessities and apparel at 20 outlets, mostly in the heartland.

Deputy director C.S. Sim, who is part of the firm's second-generation leadership, said: "For the business to continue to thrive, we need to be where our customers are, whether at a physical store in the heartland or online.

"Besides the challenge of determining the best digital solution among the wide array of options, we also need to understand how we can create and inculcate an innovative culture within the company to ensure our competitiveness in the long run."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 13, 2018, with the headline 'Digital makeover for seven SMEs to spur innovation'. Print Edition | Subscribe