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Enterprise Singapore’s Group-based Upgrading initiative helps SMEs adopt technology

Enterprise Singapore announced that with SME Centres’ efforts to aggregate common capability needs of SMEs and help to facilitate group-based solutions for mass deployment its Group-based Upgrading (GBU) initiative has resulted in a total of 22 projects.

Introduced in 2013, SME Centres are one-stop centres set up to provide SMEs with free business diagnosis and advice, capability workshops and guidance on assistance schemes.

Collectively, SME Centres assist over 20,000 SMEs every year though face-to-face business advisory sessions, capability workshops and outreach events. Most of the SMEs helped by the centres were micro and small enterprises with less than S$1 million in annual revenue, and between S$1 million and S$10 million in annual revenue respectively.

SMEs often seek help in new business set-up, business capabilities diagnosis and advice on government assistance programmes. In 2017, some 1,100 SMEs embarked on and completed capability development projects, which nearly doubled the number of SMEs in 2013. Of these SMEs, 70% embarked on some form of technology adoption, such as point-of-sale system, customer relationship management system, HR IT system, etc.

Since 2017, the GBU initiative adopts a group-based solutions approach in tackling these common business challenges. Individually, SME owners may face resource constraints in their capability and growth efforts. By pooling resources and ideas together, SME Centres help these businesses discover collective solutions to tackle common problems and overcome the challenges together.

The GBU projects resulted from Business Advisors’ interactions with SMEs surfaced similar business challenges and issues faced by businesses in the same locality or trade. These projects, which include both digital and non-digital solutions, have since helped over 100 participating businesses to improve their sales and revenue, productivity, customer service levels and shopping experiences, and are projected to benefit another 200 SMEs by the end of 2018.

One of such ongoing trade-based GBU projects is led by SME Centre@Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (ASME) for the tailoring sector. The project aims to help businesses in the sector to raise productivity levels by using a 3D body scanner, where details like body measurements are captured directly into a customer database through the use of the body scanner. This reduces human errors and the time needed to manually record the appropriate measurements. An order management system is also being introduced to help speed up and track the order taking process and enable easier retrieval of customers’ orders. This GBU project is targeting to reach out to 30 tailoring businesses by end of 2018.

Another example of a locality-based project is the One Kampong Glam GBU initiative by SME Centre@Singapore Malay Chamber of Commerce & Industry (SMCCI) and the merchant association One Kampong Gelam. This digital makeover project of Kampong Glam involves identifying technologies to uplift the appeal of the area by creating a richer and more immersive retail experience. The project introduces an integrated point-of-sale, CRM and inventory management system to help improve the productivity of the merchants. With the customer data collected, businesses are able to use data analytics to enhance the shopping experience in this heritage-rich area and encourage footfall to the stores. Currently, there are more than 10 businesses participating in this GBU project, and the project is expected to see 100 merchants come on board by end of 2018.

According to the statement, with increasing digital disruption across various sectors SMEs will need to build stronger digital capabilities and actively adopt technology to grow their businesses.

SMEs that need assistance to upgrade or transform their business are advised to approach the SME Centres and their Business Advisors for free one-on-one business advisory and business diagnosis, as well as for help to strengthen their capabilities through capability workshops.

Moving forward, SME Centres will be driving more impactful group-based upgrading projects to help SMEs, including businesses in the heartlands, to solve common business problems and adopt appropriate technology solutions.

SME Centres will also be deepening their scope of business diagnosis, advisory services and capability workshops in areas such as:

(1)     Digitalisation and e-Commerce

This aims to help SMEs to recognise the need to digitalise and embark on e-Commerce, curate available digital solutions and e-Commerce platforms and make recommendations to SMEs , and organise specific digital solution and e-Commerce workshops.

(2)    Internationalisation

For SMEs new to internationalisation, SME Centres will help organise basic export/import and market entry advisory workshops, give basic market advisory (starting with ASEAN markets), and provide advice on relevant internationalisation tools and programmes, and connect them to Enterprise Singapore’s overseas centres and/or Plug and Play Network partners.

The Plug & Play Network is designed to provide in-market assistance to Singapore SMEs. This network of in-market partners aims to address challenges faced by SMEs when venturing overseas in the areas of market knowledge and insights, business leads and business matching, and co-working spaces options.

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