Entrepreneur

SMEs Make Up 99% of Singapore Enterprises, And There's No Better Time Than Now To Be One

Big corporations traditionally have a large global footprint in terms of publicity, revenue, and creating impact in the global market. However, in recent years, with rapidly-evolving technology, disruption has happened in the business landscape, and small and medium-sized enterprises are now playing a more prominent role in contributing to Singapore’s digital future.

Locally, there are nearly 190,000 local SMEs, and these make up 99% of all enterprises, contribute to nearly half of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP), and employ 7 in 10 members of the workers.

These SMEs are our greatest source of innovation, and technology holds the key to their future.

In fact, our Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has recently stated during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders’ retreat on 20 November (Sunday) that “the fruits of globalisation can be spread more evenly if economies focus on supporting small businesses, digital trade and services” – something that the Singapore government has already been working tirelessly on.

As Singapore moves towards the digital future, technology is a crucial tool to drive innovation, and to empower SMEs to achieve greater business opportunities.

Most importantly, technology will help SMEs remain competitive in an ever-changing landscape and achieve greater productivity and growth.

Leading the strategies is the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), that supports local SMEs in addressing sector challenges, and provides them growth opportunities.

The launch of IMDA by Dr. Yaacob Ibrahim on 30 Sep this year / Image Credit: CNA
The launch of IMDA by Dr. Yaacob Ibrahim on 30 Sep this year / Image Credit: CNA

IMDA has collaborated with industry partners to develop new business models that will benefit industries and the companies operating within them.

An example of one of these partners is FINALCAD, which provides mobile apps and predictive analytics to help construction stakeholders anticipate and fix issues found during the construction of buildings.

As a vendor showcased by the IMDA at the sixth edition of BuildTech Asia, the region’s biggest tradeshow for the building and construction industry, FINALCAD offers a solution to help companies improve productivity, reduce costs, and increase overall quality.

Collaborating closely with IMDA and other government agencies, the BIM-enabled (Building Information Modelling ) technology solution by FINALCAD is part of initiatives to push 3D construction out of the office, and onto the field.

Said Pierre Vauthrin, Managing Director (Asia) of FINALCAD, “FINALCAD aims to support IMDA plans to improve quality construction through implementation of technology such as BIM on construction sites.”

Not just in construction, there are also efforts to improve other sectors of SMEs.

One such example is how Applied Mesh, one of IMDA industry partners, has developed a seamless Point of Commerce (“sPOC”) secure platform to benefit both merchants and consumers, and is providing a solution in the rapidly rising e-commerce and FinTech sectors.

The advent of sPOC has helped F&B SMEs to garner significant growth in sales, and has also reduced the burden of front-of-house staff.

Working closely with IMDA to push their solution to more SMEs, Chia Hee Ming, CEO of Applied Mesh reveals, “IMDA has been supportive in providing feedback, guidance, referrals and financial support for SMEs.”

FinalCad and Applied Mesh Solutions are both supported under IMDA’s Enhanced iSRINT programme, which helps SMEs improve productivity and growth through smart technology such as sensors, data and analytics and autonomous systems.

But what is the use of all of these advancements if they’re inaccessible to most, and only benefits those in the know?

Therefore, making sure more Singaporeans get the right skills and job fit is now all the more important, and fresh and mid-career and inspiring Infocomm Tech (ICT) professionals can benefit from the TechSkills Accelerator, (TeSA), which acts to aggregate and integrate training and job placement programmes to serve across ICT and non-ICT sectors.

Programmes such as TeSA will enable a skilled workforce to power SMEs’ businesses into a digital future.

Of course, this is merely scraping the surface of the help available, and what each entails – thus, we decided to pull out the most relevant and distill the most important points for your convenience!

Fibre Ready Scheme

Ascent, the first of 70 Ascendas-Singbridge buildings with fibre infrastructure / Image Credit: saaarchitects.com.sg

Pervasive fibre connectivity is imperative in today’s economy for SMEs, hence, fibre infrastructure is vital in helping our SMEs become future-ready.

The Fibre Ready Scheme (FRS) is a S$200 million government funding announced during Budget 2014 to assist owners of non-residential buildings in Singapore to enhance in-building fibre infrastructure, and to defray the associated installation and upgrading costs.

This enhancement serves to speed up the provision of fibre broadband installations to all business tenants in the buildings, and to meet existing or future tenants’ needs. The subsidy will be awarded on a first-come-first-served basis, and is subject to application eligibility and fund availability.

At the start of November this year, urban and business space provider Ascendas-Singbridge and local telco M1 announced the completion of the largest fibre upgrading project for commercial buildings under the FRS scheme.

Completed at Ascent, a 7-storey tall integrated business park, retail, and F&B development, it is the first of 70 Ascendas-Singbridge commercial buildings that will be equipped with fibre infrastructure by M1.

In addition to these numbers, a reported 200 other buildings have also signed up for the scheme.

Perhaps what makes the FRS so attractive to building owners is that the scheme will subsidise up to 90% of the incurred cost for a one-time installation of the fibre infrastructure, capped at S$300,000 per building.

Information on the exact costs involved, the contractors that they can engage in, and the buildings that have already completed the FRS provisioning are readily available on the IMDA’s FRS website, and building owners may use the information provided to make a well-informed decision before applying for FRS.

New Ways of Work (NWoW)

Image Credit: Google for Work
Image Credit: Google for Work

The digital age hasn’t just brought about an influx of new technologies and conveniences – it has also brought about new ways of defining work.

In the days when we didn’t have social media, messaging apps or emails, working offsite was unspoken of, and these ‘traditional’ arrangements required some employees – especially working mothers, to sacrifice one or the other.

Now, though, working offsite doesn’t mean that employees have to be less productive than those in the office, and they will not have to sacrifice personal responsibilities for professional ones.

This is where the New Ways of Work (NWoW) initiative comes in, and one program to have come out from that is the Smart Work Center.

Smart Work Centers (SWC)

Image Credit: IMDA

Since 2014, Smart Work Centers, which are equipped with amenities like secure Wi-Fi, printing, copying, and video-conferencing services, have become a alternative workspace to some 1,500 individuals from various industries.

Freelancers, entrepreneurs, and full-timers alike have been seen working in these spaces, which are currently found in 3 public libraries – Toa Payoh Public Library, Jurong Regional Library and Geylang East Public Library.

The fourth such centre is headed east, and by the second half of next year, is expected to open at Tampines Regional Library.

It’s an example of how work can evolve into something more productive, flexible, and supportive of work-life balance – by connecting companies and individuals to the right tools.

For SMEs which may not have the funds to rent a large office space, this is a win-win solution for both the companies and their employees.

Not Just The Ones Mentioned

Other than the ones mentioned in pointers above, IMDA also has the Enhanced iSPRINT programme, which pre-qualifies relevant smart technology such as sensors, data and analytics, and autonomous systems that empowers SMEs to be manpower-lean, increase their revenues and improve operational efficiency.

SMEs deploying pre-qualified proven sector ICT solutions can get up to 70% grant support, and for innovative SMEs who are eager to use new technology that has not yet been widely used and that could potentially transform a sector can get up to 80% support capped at $1 million per SME.

For more information, visit www.imda.gov.sg/isprint for more details.

SMEs, Start Applying!

Singapore has been identified by the World Economic Forum (WEF) as the top “network ready” country for the second year in the row, and said that it is also “benefiting the most from the investments made into technological innovations”.

Hey, we even beat the land of Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs and all the cool tech startups, the US, which was placed fifth in the rankings!

Therefore, with the plethora of IMDA-led initiatives that are here to help smaller businesses get through teething problems and roadblocks – there’s really no better time to be an SME in Singapore.

This article was written in collaboration with IMDA.

Feature Image Credit: wearespaces.com

 

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