Forum: Limited pre-approved vendors a setback in applying for cash grant

As a business owner, I am thankful to the Government for providing generous financial support for small businesses to help tide us through this pandemic.

One of the grants is the Digital Resilience Bonus (DRB), where retail and food companies can receive payouts of up to $10,000 by adopting various categories of digital solutions.

I was motivated by DRB to digitalise and prepare my business for the post-Covid-19 world. I wanted to employ solutions under the data mining and analytics category for my retail business.

However, when I checked the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) website last month, I was surprised to see only three pre-approved vendors for the data mining category of DRB.

Worst of all, there was only one pre-approved vendor for all food and beverage businesses in Singapore for the same category.

With such a limited number of pre-approved vendors, I question whether these vendors can cater to the very different kinds of businesses in Singapore.

Also, with those vendors monopolising the market and knowing that businesses would receive payouts by adopting their solutions, what are the chances that they will mark up their solution cost?

In today's world, there is an abundance of effective technological solutions out there in the market for our companies to adopt. Why does IMDA limit the number of solutions for businesses to choose from?

Nevertheless, companies can adopt third-party solutions or develop in-house solutions and lodge an appeal for DRB.

Initially, I approached pre-approved vendors but was told that they would help me with the DRB submission only if I subscribed to their premium annual plans.

Knowing that and after studying the pre-approved solutions closely, I chose to instead invest in a third-party solution - a reputable data mining and analytics solution - as I felt that pre-approved ones could not bring much value to my business.

I bought the solution based on the criteria on the appeal application form by IMDA, but it was rejected. IMDA assessed my third-party solution based on a set of criteria which was different from the publicly stated original one.

Given such uncertainty about the outcome of DRB appeals, businesses may not be willing to risk spending a sizeable sum of money in adopting solutions that are not pre-approved.

In that case, would government spending on DRB be effective in helping businesses innovate?

Damien Toh