Many entrepreneurs and business people say Singapore is one of the best places in the world to do business.
There is no lack of government grants and subsidies, or mentorships and workshops for first-time entrepreneurs who are striking it out on their own or with their partners.
But small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Singapore are getting left out and are getting disrupted by the new kids on the block with their technology-driven solutions and modern business models.
So, this is where The FinLab comes in.
They have announced yesterday (12 February) the launch of the third cycle of its accelerator programme that aims to help SMEs with digital transformation by linking them up with “curated technology solution providers”.
Providing An Access To Tools And Resources For SMEs
The FinLab is a joint venture between United Overseas Bank Limited (UOB) and SGInnovate, a government-backed venture catalyst.
Since its inception in 2015, it has conducted two cycles of accelerator programmes that focused on supporting selected FinTech startups to grow the FinTech ecosystem in Singapore.
This time, they decided to focus on SMEs in Singapore because they noticed that they have been slow in keeping up with the times and transforming their businesses digitally.
They found two key barriers for the slow uptake: the lack of interoperability between solutions installed, and the lack of support from the vendors they got these solutions from.
Managing Director of The FinLab, Mr Felix Tan, said, “As these start-ups become more advanced in their business models, there is a need to help them commercialise by connecting them with potential customers who require technology solutions.”
“We’ve also seen that SMEs want to innovate but may not know where and how to start,” he added.
According to The FinLab, SMEs make up 99 per cent of all local enterprises, employ two-thirds of the national workforce, and contribute to nearly half of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
“Stronger SMEs will make our economy more resilient to cyclical downturns,” Mr Tan stated.
Forming the demand side of things, this cycle for SMEs aims to grow revenues and increase productivity through business model innovation, the use of data analytics, and the adoption of an integrated suite of curated solutions.
At the same time, on the supply side of things, selected solution providers can benefit from the increased adoption of their solutions, co-creating with the selected SMEs to widen their product offerings, and the potential to reach regional SME markets.
Selected SMEs are not limited to tools and resources from curated tech solution providers as The FinLab will support with the implementation of the solutions.
Should these SMEs require more assistance after the accelerator programme, “The FinLab is open to extending their support further,” Mr Tan told me.
If participants have expansion aspirations, this programme enables them to take advantage of UOB’s regional presence and SGInnovate’s global linkages to achieve that.
The Path To Digitalisation
Eight SMEs from specifically the F&B, retail, wholesale trade, and logistics industries will be chosen to participate in this four-months long programme which will begin by end-March.
To qualify, these SMEs should have a turnover of S$10 million to S$25 million, but more importantly, their owners and management team should have a few important qualities.
Mr Tan explained that leaders have to be open-minded to feedback and solutions, be willing to change, and are able to provide resources who can commit to the programme in order to see optimal results.
Tech firms will pitch the solutions to these selected SMEs in the first month.
The FinLab’s guidelines on selecting these solution providers include their interoperability, affordability, the number of SME clients they’ve worked with before, and the functionality and practicality of their solutions to these non-tech savvy business owners.
The remaining three months will be spent on implementing the solutions and preparing for the showcase which is expected to happen in August 2018.
The FinLab hope their participants will achieve the ability to start using the tools with minimal external help, see real productivity gains as processes are refined, and see real revenue growth through client understanding and better marketing and sales strategies.
“I strongly believe that once these challenges are overcome…SME owners will become the next generation of ‘SME Champions’ as their businesses capitalise on a digital economy that is set to grow by USD$1 trillion in GDP by 2025 here in ASEAN alone,” Mr Tan said.
Featured Image Credit: UOB Group