COVID-19 SPECIAL

SMEs adapt to meet changing demands resulting from coronavirus

Park N Parcel co-founder Erik Cheong (top) and Glints CEO Oswald Yeo are dealing with the supply chain disruptions caused by Covid-19. Mr Muhammad Qoyyum Jhamaaluddin of logistics company Park N Parcel delivering an online order to customer Martin Ng
Mr Muhammad Qoyyum Jhamaaluddin of logistics company Park N Parcel delivering an online order to customer Martin Ng.PHOTO: COURTESY OF PARK N PARCEL

Although many small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are struggling, some are seizing opportunities as new demands emerge due to the coronavirus pandemic.

These associations and firms say they are adapting to meet rapidly changing needs such as the surge in demand for logistics services.

Association of Small and Medium Enterprises president Kurt Wee told The Straits Times: "It is a very challenging time for businesses, when they are looking at a 50 per cent to 80 per cent fall in revenue.

"Nonetheless... it is about surmounting challenges and the roadblocks that they face.

"Businesses have to rethink their model and rebuild themselves... (move) in a new direction."

Logistics firm Park N Parcel is one that has taken up the challenge.

Its original business model was to provide deliveries between fixed drop-off and pick-up points but the closures of malls and other public areas made that largely redundant, said co-founder Erik Cheong.

Only 10 per cent of designated points were accessible to the public, mostly at convenience outlets. It decided to adapt its warehouse and reconfigure technology to manage last-mile delivery instead of just fixed location points so it now delivers to a customer's doorstep.

Mr Cheong said: "While thinking of how we could keep our business running during this period, we noticed that social media sellers on Carousell, Facebook and other platforms were having a harder time dealing with the influx of orders."

Park N Parcel co-founder Erik Cheong (top) and Glints CEO Oswald Yeo are dealing with the supply chain disruptions caused by Covid-19. Mr Muhammad Qoyyum Jhamaaluddin of logistics company Park N Parcel delivering an online order to customer Martin Ng
Park N Parcel co-founder Erik Cheong (left) and Glints CEO Oswald Yeo (right) are dealing with the supply chain disruptions caused by Covid-19. PHOTO: COURTESY OF PARK N PARCEL

He said some sellers were not familiar with managing bulk purchases while others could not cope with the volume of online orders.

It is also making deliveries for other brands like Unilever, Charles & Keith and Nature's Farm due to their sheer volume of orders.

 

"We thought that this was a way to deal with the challenges in our own business, while meeting the needs of other firms that were also experiencing difficulties during this time," he said.

Mr Cheong also attended courses by Alibaba Business School, set up by Chinese technology firm Alibaba to train entrepreneurs, to learn how to deal with the crisis while meeting social needs.

Another company that has risen to the challenge is Glints, a technology-enabled recruitment platform.

Its chief executive Oswald Yeo said: "Like many companies, we have had to adapt our own business quickly to the changing market dynamics due to the crisis.

"Employers in sectors like travel and hospitality faced a sharp decline in manpower needs, while others in sectors such as e-commerce and online education needed more help urgently to manage the spike in demand for their services."

Glints launched an initiative to provide free outplacement solutions for companies, helping to match affected employees with new career opportunities. The initiative, launched about three weeks ago, has already led to more than 2,000 applications, with over 1,000 job interviews.

Singapore Business Federation chief executive Ho Meng Kit said: "The present crisis presents the perfect opportunity to accelerate the adoption of e-commerce and digital solutions.

"In light of the disruption to the supply chain, it is also important that businesses along the value chain appreciate the need to adjust existing processes to cope with the changed circumstances."

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 26, 2020, with the headline 'SMEs adapt to meet changing demands resulting from virus'. Subscribe