SINGAPORE - Mr Simon Quek Hong Kiat was hoping to expand his company's business to China this year, but the Covid-19 pandemic scuppered his plans.
"Travel restrictions have stopped me from meeting potential customers directly," said the managing director of QSS, which sells safety products such as personal protective equipment.
A cross-border trade platform called OneSME, however, is set to put him back on the path to expanding into the world's second-largest economy.
At the launch of OneSME on Monday (Sept 28), Mr Quek noted that the platform will allow his firm access to a buyer base of four million small and medium-sized enterprises in China that are on OneConnect's YiQiYe platform.
OneConnect's parent company is China's insurance giant Ping An Group.
Mr Quek's company is one of 50 firms on board OneSME as at Monday.
OneConnect Financial Technology chief executive (South-east Asia) Tan Bin Ru expects 100 companies to be on the platform by year end. OneSME is developed and operated by OneConnect.
"We are slow to ramp it up... We want to take time to ramp it up because it is important to find the correct value," she said, referring to ways that OneSME can better serve buyers and sellers.
A survey of 2,100 Chinese SMEs on OneConnect YiQiYe in July showed that a strong number of companies want to buy goods from Singapore, particularly for items in the food and beverage sector and industrial equipment.
Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information and National Development Sim Ann, who launched the platform, urged local SMEs that want to expand into China to be part of OneSME.
"To give our SMEs a head start, OneSME will proactively match local sellers... This matching is at no cost to both buyers and sellers during this initial period," she said.
OneSME - a project by OneConnect and the Republic's Infocomm Media Development Authority - is also part of the Singapore-China (Shenzhen) Smart City Initiative under which memorandums of understanding were signed in June this year to grant companies and entrepreneurs easier access to opportunities in the Greater Bay Area and South-east Asia digitally.
United Overseas Bank group business banking head Lawrence Loh said that expanding into overseas markets can be an expensive and complex task for many companies, especially small businesses.
UOB will be offering banking and digital solutions through OneSME, including collections and payments, trade financing and working capital needs, through a memorandum of understanding between the lender and OneConnect.
The bank's credit underwriting engine, which will provide the lender with more information on the company's online sales, among other data, will help "more accurately determine a business's creditworthiness and in turn, support SMEs in obtaining the working capital they need," he added.