Firms keen to digitalise to deal with manpower crunch will continue to get help: DPM Wong

DPM Lawrence Wong also encouraged businesses to consider internationalising. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Companies that wish to automate their processes and become more productive, in a bid to deal with the global manpower crunch, will continue to get help through grants and guidance.

Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong on Friday gave his assurance that more will also be done to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) here seize international opportunities and navigate global challenges.

He was speaking at the Singapore Malay Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s (SMCCI) gala dinner and awards night, during which the association gave out awards to Malay businesses that have done well over the past year.

Although the worst of Covid-19 may be over, the world is faced with fresh challenges, said Mr Wong, who is also Finance Minister.

These include heightened geopolitical tensions, rising interest rates and the Russia-Ukraine war, which has led to higher inflation across the world due to tightened energy and food supplies.

But despite these challenges, there are still reasons to be optimistic, given how there are still opportunities and growth prospects for Singapore, and for the region. DPM Wong noted that the Republic’s economy is still expected to grow by 3 per cent to 4 per cent this year, and that South-east Asia is also doing well.

“We will do more to help our SMEs navigate the challenges ahead and take full advantage of the opportunities around us.”

Noting that many businesses are grappling with manpower issues both here and around the world, he said the Government has many grant schemes to help SMEs adopt a variety of productivity solutions.

“You can get advice on these solutions from dedicated SME centres run by various trade associations and business chambers, including SMCCI,” he added.

Digitalisation will remain key for many SMEs, and DPM Wong highlighted how it not only helps businesses become more efficient in their operations but can also help them reach more customers.

He said surveys have shown that SMEs that have digitalised see higher revenue growth and outperform their peers that do not make such moves.

For instance, the UOB SME Outlook Survey 2021 published in March last year found that two in five SMEs that implemented digitalisation initiatives in 2020 had stronger revenue growth than non-adopters. Among non-adopters, six in 10 saw their 2020 net revenue decline from 2019.

In order to capture a share of the growing opportunities in South-east Asia or beyond, DPM Wong also encouraged businesses to consider internationalising, adding that this has never been easier with e-commerce, which can be the first step to reach regional customers. He added that there are many grants and schemes to help businesses here venture overseas.

At the event held at Parkroyal Hotel in Beach Road on Friday, education provider Kowabunga! Global, which has grown from a small centre in 2011 to 14 centres with 180 staff today, was among the companies and individuals who were honoured, with awards given out across seven categories.

Ms Nur Suliani Md Noor, the company’s co-founder and programe director, was awarded the SMCCI Female Entrepreneur of the year. She said she felt honoured to be listed as a finalist alongside other established entrepreneurs.

“The win came as a surprise, and my team and I will take this as a sign of encouragement. The work continues, and we will do our best to make sure our work has social impact as well,” she said.

Kowabunga Global! was also awarded the SMCCI Community Champion Award.

DPM Wong, in his speech, asked that SMCCI continue to work together with the Government to support the Malay/Muslim business community. He highlighted how the association has contributed much to the success of the community over the years.

“I am confident that as long as we stay united, we can overcome any challenges ahead, and emerge stronger together.”

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