More help for SMEs on use of online tools and software

Start Digital initiative expanding in areas like digital collaboration, marketing, e-payment

In the area of digital collaboration, SMEs can access tools that enable employees to work from home.
In the area of digital collaboration, SMEs can access tools that enable employees to work from home. PHOTO: ST FILE

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Singapore wanting to go digital will soon receive more help on the use of online tools and software programs.

The Start Digital initiative, which provides newly incorporated SMEs and those that have yet to digitalise with foundational and easy-to-deploy solutions at low cost, is expanding in areas such as digital collaboration, marketing and e-payment.

The initiative was launched in January 2019 by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and Enterprise Singapore (ESG).

ESG chairman Peter Ong, who shared details of the additional tools during a webinar yesterday, said digitalisation was no longer an option but a necessity.

"Covid-19 has impacted SMEs in many ways. It compounded pre-existing challenges such as cost pressures, cash flow and manpower issues, amidst weak demand locally and globally," he added.

"One of the changes I believe will endure (after the pandemic) is digitalisation. We will shift to a new world where digital is integrated into all aspects of our business operations for companies big and small."

He added: "Being receptive to digitalisation will enable you to unlock new channels of revenue and opportunities for your business in a world still ravaged by Covid-19."

In the area of digital collaboration, SMEs can access tools that enable employees to work from home or any other convenient location. Examples include Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace.

Those that need help with digital marketing can now also make use of tools such as Skale to create social media advertisements as well as manage their digital ad buys and placements on a single platform.

Such tools allow SMEs to easily manage targeted digital marketing campaigns and reach out to consumers on social media.

Existing digital marketing solutions under Start Digital focus on appointment scheduling, direct messaging apps like WhatsApp, Telegram, Messenger, WeChat and Line, as well as e-mail marketing. Tools for social media ads on platforms such as Facebook and Instagram were previously not provided.

As for those with digital transactions, InvoiceNow-linked solutions offered by banking partners will be integrated with e-payment options, including PayNow Corporate, to enable SMEs to generate or receive e-invoices and receive or make e-payments seamlessly.

InvoiceNow is a nationwide e-invoicing method that facilitates the direct transmission of invoices in a structured digital format across finance systems.

This can help SMEs improve transaction accuracy and administrative productivity.

The digital solutions, which IMDA and ESG call Start Digital Packs, are offered by six partners - DBS Bank, M1, Maybank, OCBC Bank, Singtel and UOB.

From 2019 to last year, more than 30,000 SMEs have adopted the Start Digital Packs.

Ms Michelle Sim, who quit her job in January last year to start Sixth Senses Aromatics, told the webinar yesterday that she wanted to open a physical store for people to be able to test her products.

But she had to change her plans due to the pandemic, and sought help from the SME Centre@ASME in setting up a website instead.

"Now, my products are featured online. I also conduct workshops via Zoom for people who are interested," she said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 27, 2021, with the headline More help for SMEs on use of online tools and software. Subscribe