$6.8 million in payouts given to 2,700 retail and F&B businesses for going digital

Communications and Information Minister S Iswaran looking at T K Foto's online website with managing director James Ng on Nov 6, 2020. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE - Some 2,700 local companies in the retail and food services sectors received about $6.8 million from the Government between August and October to support the digitalisation of their businesses, said Communications and Information Minister S. Iswaran on Friday (Nov 6).

The sum was disbursed through the Digital Resilience Bonus (DRB), which offers up to $10,000 each for companies which adopt digital solutions in any of three categories by June 30 next year.

Companies can digitise their human resources or payroll operations, build an online presence through e-commerce, or adopt data analytics, among other digital solutions.

"What (the amount paid out) underscores is that the level of awareness for the importance of using digital solutions among our enterprises has been significantly heightened by the Covid-19 experience," said Mr Iswaran.

"That awareness is translating into tangible action steps as reflected in the broader response to our SMEs Go Digital programme, which has seen a doubling in the number of SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) taking up digital solutions in the last six months."

The SMEs Go Digital programme, launched by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) in April 2017, includes assistance such as the DRB, industry digital plans and pre-approved digital solutions that are market-proven.

More than 50,000 SMEs have taken up digital solutions under the programme as of September this year.

Mr Iswaran was speaking at Funan Mall, where he visited two tenants who have received the DRB and benefited from other government subsidies to go digital amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The first tenant is design and gardening store The Green Capsule, which specialises in indoor plants and also conducts workshops teaching customers how to set up their own terrariums.

Owner Ricky Lim, 37, received a $2,500 DRB payout in August for implementing an e-commerce solution which helped him tide over the circuit breaker period when there was no brick-and-mortar business.

Minister S Iswaran speaking with The Green Capsule owner Ricky Lim at his store in Funan Mall on Nov 6, 2020. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

He has also tapped the Productivity Solutions Grant (PSG), which provides subsidies of up to 80 per cent for SMEs that adopt digital solutions.

"We were lucky in a way to have launched (our website) during the second week of the lockdown in April, which caught many people at a time when they were picking up new indoor hobbies," said Mr Lim.

"With the (e-commerce solution) we were also able to see how many people were coming to our website and what they were looking at and buying. During the lockdown our DIY kits were very popular, for example."

Third-generation owner of electronics retailer T K Foto, Mr James Ng, also received a $2,500 DRB payout in August, which he used for digital marketing.

Mr Ng, 43, revamped the store's website during the circuit breaker period, and also increased the number of products put up for sale monthly on e-commerce platforms like Lazada and Shopee from about 300 to 1,200.

This allowed T K Foto to expand its online customer base by three times from April to July. Online sales now make up about 15 per cent of T K Foto's total revenue, compared to less than 5 per cent before the circuit breaker.

"We always knew that we would have to digitalise no matter what, but the Covid-19 situation pushed forward a lot of our plans," said Mr Ng. "If we had not digitalised... the company would have been obsolete now."

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