Start Digital initiative has helped more than 4,000 SMEs adopt digital solutions in six months

Start Digital will allow new SMEs to take up two digital solutions that run for at least 18 months, with the Government bearing the costs for a minimum of six months. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - More than 4,000 fledgling small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have tapped the Start Digital initiative to digitalise their businesses since the programme was launched in January.

An initiative of the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and Enterprise Singapore, Start Digital allows new SMEs to take up two digital solutions that run for at least 18 months, with the Government bearing the costs for a minimum of six months.

Speaking to media at the Ministry of Communications and Information's workplan seminar on Wednesday (July 10), Communications and Information Minister S. Iswaran said SMEs are at the heart of Singapore's economy, comprising 99 per cent of all enterprises and two-thirds of the workforce.

Aiding their digitalisation efforts is thus a major component of Singapore's vision for inclusive digital transformation.

"I don't think it's about a lack of awareness or will on SMEs' parts anymore but more about them being resource-constrained and lacking the capacity to get the transformation done," said Mr Iswaran.

"And that's where all the work that IMDA is doing comes in. Start Digital is a simple plug and play solution. SMEs only have to think about what solution they want and how to integrate it into their operations."

SMEs can choose any two of five categories for Start Digital: accounting, human resource management system and payroll, cyber security, digital marketing, and digital transactions, with solutions in the first three areas enjoying the most take-ups.

The solutions help SMEs better manage their back-end operations involving finances and sales.

Start Digital is an offshoot of the $80 million SMEs Go Digital scheme that was launched in 2017 with the goal of helping SMEs tackle business challenges brought by digital disruption. A total of 10,000 SMEs have benefited from the SMEs Go Digital scheme, with 6,000 coming in the last six months.

Businesses are eligible for Start Digital if they have at least 30 per cent local shareholding, and revenue of not more than $100 million or fewer than 200 employees at group level.

SMEs can approach any of the scheme's partners - DBS Bank, Maybank, OCBC Bank, Singtel, StarHub and United Overseas Bank - to apply.

Digital marketing agency 3D Brand Agency adopted a cloud-based software called the SME Cloud Exchange Network (SMECEN) from OCBC that helped with its accounting and human resource needs.

Using the software, firms can generate financial statements and corporate tax computations, as well as goods and services tax and corporate tax returns using standard report templates that draw on existing accounting data.

The firm's team of six previously had to spend three hours a week each on invoicing, using Excel spreadsheets. This was cut down to an hour with SMECEN, saving a total of 12 man-hours weekly.

"To grow in Singapore today, small companies like us need to make effective use of technology to improve our productivity," said 3D Brand founder Faisal Masri.

"As an SME, our strength lies in how we can adapt more quickly to changes and we need to capitalise on opportunities like Start Digital."

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