SMEs must embrace social media and e-commerce: Lee Yi Shyan

 A gathering of entrepreneurs at the eighth annual Emerging Enterprise Awards gala dinner organised by The Business Times and OCBC Bank, and held at the Shangri-La Hotel on Sept 24. PHOTO: MARISSA LEE
A gathering of entrepreneurs at the eighth annual Emerging Enterprise Awards gala dinner organised by The Business Times and OCBC Bank, and held at the Shangri-La Hotel on Sept 24. PHOTO: MARISSA LEE

SINGAPORE - Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) must evolve by jumping on important trends such as the use of social media and e-commerce, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Lee Yi Shyan said on Wednesday.

"SMEs need to evolve their business models to take advantage of emerging trends, and one important trend is the increasing use of social media and e-commerce," said Mr Lee. 

He was speaking to a gathering of entrepreneurs at the eighth annual Emerging Enterprise Awards gala dinner organised by The Business Times and OCBC Bank, and held at the Shangri-La Hotel.

"E-commerce levels the playing field between small and large enterprises by allowing our local retailers to reach an international audience and enables enterprises to better engage existing customers, all at a significantly lower cost," Mr Lee said.

He noted that Singapore's e-retail sales last year accounted for only 0.3 per cent of national income (or gross domestic product) at S$1.08 billion - a number much lower than that in China or the United States.

China had nearly US$450 billion (S$636.5 billion) in e-retail sales last year, amounting to 4.3 per cent of its GDP, said Mr Lee, citing Juniper Research. In the same year, the US generated US$296 billion in e-retail sales, amounting to 1.7 per cent of its GDP.

"Hence there is much room for us to grow in this area," he said.  

Mr Lee emphasised that the Government is providing strong support to businesses seeking to adopt e-commerce.

One example he gave was enterprise agency SPRING's Collaborative Industry Project, which covers 70 per cent of an SME's cost of participating in SingPost's end-to-end e-commerce fulfilment solution programme. The programme helps SMEs outsource their inventory management and order fulfilment functions.

Another example is International Enterprise Singapore's Market Readiness Assistance grant, which gives SMEs funding support for marketing efforts on online marketplaces.

marilee@sph.com.sg