Initiative that has helped over 37,000 SMEs digitalise is extended to 2025

Mr Kelvin Leong started digitalising his companies under the Start Digital initiative last year. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

SINGAPORE - Mr Kelvin Leong used to spend up to five days a month manually processing payroll records for his employees.

It takes him only an hour now.

The director of Chicken Pie Kitchen and Don Signature Crab, a restaurant specialising in freshly baked chicken pies and seafood dishes, adopted a digital solution for human resources management and payroll.

Using an online platform helps the company manage its payroll, employee attendance, Central Provident Fund records, Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore tax compliance and scheduling.

The company started digitalising under the Start Digital initiative last year.

Start Digital, under the SMEs Go Digital programme, provides newly incorporated small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) or those that have yet to digitalise with foundational digital solutions to help them start their digitalisation journeys.

Start Digital was launched by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and Enterprise Singapore in January 2019, and has benefitted more than 37,000 companies since.

The initiative will be extended for three years to 2025, and eligible SMEs will get a fee waiver for six months.

"We used to do accounting using Excel spreadsheets but it was painful in the long run, as we had lots of technical challenges - especially because we have a lot of small money transactions as a restaurant," Mr Leong, 33, told The Straits Times earlier this week.

The company has since switched to a finance and accounting digital solution, which helps the business to compile invoices, purchase receipts, orders and other documents into one single platform, which can be accessed online and even via a mobile application.

"We save 70 to 80 per cent more time compared with when we were doing our business accounting manually," Mr Leong said.

"As we spend less time on these manual tasks, we can focus more on improving staff welfare, such as getting our staff more health and dental benefits," he added.

As part of the extended Start Digital initiative, SMEs can choose either one or two foundational digital solutions from among the following categories: sales generation, business efficiency and cyber security. They can also choose to adopt these solutions either concurrently or separately, depending on their business needs.

The solutions are currently offered by five bank and telco partners - DBS Bank, Maybank, OCBC Bank, UOB and Singtel.

Ms Azlina Mohamed Osman moved her business to e-commerce platform Shopify under the Start Digital initiative. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

SMEs can sign up through any of the bank and telco partners.

Enterprise Singapore chairman Peter Ong said on Monday (July 25): "We are continuing our support to get more SMEs on board and help them digitalise... only then can they gain a head start digitally to access growth opportunities locally and overseas."

Ms Azlina Mohamed Osman, 44, who in January 2021 started Lina Mos, a home-based fragrance store, needed up to three working days whenever she received new orders to reply to all her customers' orders and inquiries.

She then moved her business to e-commerce platform Shopify under the Start Digital initiative. The platform notifies Ms Azlina and her business partner of new orders, collates the fragrance store's customer base and stores inventory information.

Ms Azlina now closes customers' orders and replies to their inquiries within a few hours. She opened a physical store for her products in May in Teck Whye Lane.

"Our online sales rose from 5 per cent of our overall sales to 20 per cent thanks to our Shopify platform. I am now able to sleep more peacefully instead of spending hours settling customer inquiries and orders at night," said Ms Azlina, who added that the rest of her sales come from pop-up booths that she sets up monthly at shopping malls.

IMDA chief executive Lew Chuen Hong said that Start Digital is "a low-cost, very easy way for any SME to take that first step" in digitalising its sales and business operations, as well as strengthening its cyber security.

Correction note: An earlier version of this article said eligible SMEs will get a fee waiver for the first six months. This has been corrected. 

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