SINGAPORE - Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) will get more help to build their online presence as the Covid-19 pandemic accelerates the shift towards all things digital, said Ms Low Yen Ling, Minister of State for Trade and Industry, and Culture, Community and Youth, on Thursday (Sept 23).
The Productivity Solutions Grant - which defrays up to 80 per cent of the cost of funding digital solutions - will be expanded from October to include digital marketing solutions.
"SMEs can tap this grant to develop their digital marketing strategy, create content, and execute digital marketing campaigns to support or boost their business. They can also use it to build an online customer base and attract more traffic to their brick-and-mortar stores," said Ms Low at the annual SME Centre Conference, which was held virtually this year.
She added that going digital allows SMEs to capture new growth opportunities and markets, and be more efficient. Businesses can make an appointment with advisers at any of Singapore's 12 SME Centres for more details about the enhanced grant.
SME Centres - set up by Enterprise Singapore and five trade associations and chambers - offer help such as one-to-one business diagnosis and advisory services, capability workshops, and group-based upgrading projects.
These centres have helped more than 20,000 enterprises so far this year and will be further enhanced to support SMEs' needs, said Ms Low.
Companies can get more insights about how to develop their workforce, since the centres have partnered the Institute for Human Resource Professionals (IHRP) to train their business advisers to use the Human Capital Diagnostics Tool navigator.
The complimentary self-help tool, developed by IHRP, offers an overview of a company's human capital maturity. An assessment can be completed within half an hour.
The business advisers can then assess the results to customise strategies for addressing specific human capital gaps within a company.
Businesses can also get help with managing their finances at SME Centres. Specialist advisers have guided more than 400 SMEs since February on matters such as businesses' financial health and financing options.
Ms Low said: "SME Centres have also been working closely with promising SMEs to co-develop and implement growth roadmaps."
She mentioned food manufacturer Asyura as one such business. It sells pastes for various dishes such as ayam goreng berempah (spiced fried chicken) and curry chicken.
Asyura was started by Madam Norhuda Rabani as a home-based business in 2004, but she realised it had the potential to scale up.
She approached the SME Centre @ SMCCI (Singapore Malay Chamber of Commerce and Industry) and received advice about various issues such as the cost of renting a central kitchen and how much she would have to produce to cover it.
Asyura, which expanded in 2011, now sells 50,000 to 60,000 packets of paste a month in shops and online, as well as to restaurants. This compares with fewer than 1,000 when it was home-based.
"I started the business to help family and friends, but now, I can also contribute to the community through cooking, which I'm passionate about," said Madam Norhuda, 49, who also plans to export the pastes to countries such as Australia and China.
Association of Small and Medium Enterprises president Kurt Wee said the advancement of disruptive technologies such as artificial intelligence and intelligent automation had transformed many business processes even before the pandemic hit.
"As new innovations and technologies are developed, businesses must adapt their processes to stay competitive within the market. Although short-term survival is a key concern for many, businesses should focus on long-term survival and growth via continued transformation," he added.