Covid-19 heroes: Helping small businesses stay competitive

Ms Wong Minying, general manager of Asian Food Mall in Lucky Plaza, moved sales online with the help of DBS Bank's relief package.
Ms Wong Minying, general manager of Asian Food Mall in Lucky Plaza, moved sales online with the help of DBS Bank's relief package.PHOTO: DBS

Ms Wong Minying, 27, was used to seeing bustling queues of patrons who waited for tables at Asian Food Mall, a foodcourt at Lucky Plaza her family runs.

It was especially busy on weekends and during the Great Singapore Sale, when locals, tourists and domestic workers thronged Orchard Road.

This year, however, business took a 70 per cent hit as the coronavirus pandemic swept the country.

"The severe acute respiratory syndrome was bad, but Covid-19 is definitely worse. No one in the family business has gone through something like that," says the foodcourt's general manager.

In a bid for survival, she turned to DBS Bank's relief package for food and beverage (F&B) businesses. Supported by the Infocomm Media Development Authority and Enterprise Singapore, it helps F&B owners move online and boosts their digital marketing efforts to reach a wider audience.

"As our foodcourt is in town, we could not use most food delivery platforms that deliver only within a certain radius," says Ms Wong.

DBS helped her launch sales on e-commerce platform Oddle for islandwide delivery and create photos and videos for social media.

This is among a slew of measures the bank is taking to help small and medium-sized enterprises tide over the pandemic.

Others involve loans, help with setting up cashless payments and bootcamp webinars to educate business owners on topics such as online accounting, digital marketing and accessing new sales opportunities.


Mr Wong Hing Kong, director of Unidbox Hardware, is in the process of developing an app and preparing to launch Facebook live-streams to interact with customers. PHOTO: DBS

Another business owner who approached DBS for help is director of Unidbox Hardware, Mr Wong Hing Kong.

With the help of a loan, the 46-year-old owner of three retail shops forged ahead with digitalising his business.

 
 
 

Prior to the pandemic, he had already begun selling on e-commerce platforms such as Lazada and Shopee. Now, he is in the process of developing an app and preparing to launch Facebook live streams to interact with customers.

He believes that for business owners, success in a post-Covid-19 world will depend on venturing online and quickly cashing in on opportunities.

Ms Wong adds: "In the past, no one would have thought that a foodcourt would need to be on any social media platform. But that visibility is important now. The pandemic exposed gaps in the business and allowed us to see what is lacking in the market as well."


 

  • This is the fourth of a five-part series in collaboration with DBS to showcase people in Singapore who have come together to uplift the community in these trying times. Read more at str.sg/purpose

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 16, 2020, with the headline 'Helping small businesses stay competitive'. Print Edition | Subscribe