Last updated: 13 March 2023

Published on: 14 April 2018


Some 100 business leaders recently completed the Squared Online for SMEs programme, picking up knowledge of digital marketing trends, tech tools and strategies to transform their organisations.

Squared Online for SMEs graduation
Minister for Communications and Information, Dr Yaacob Ibrahim (sixth from left), with the top graduates of the Squared Online for SMEs programme, and senior management of IMDA, Google and Avado.
Squared Online for SMEs class
A taster or sample lesson that showed how the programme integrated virtual classroom technologies.

By Annabelle Liang


Several months ago, Ms Laura Liu was an aspiring entrepreneur with a rough business plan.

She wanted to develop an app that would allow doctors to customise and monitor a patient's exercise routine.  

But back then, the founder of Concordia Healthy Living was out of touch with the latest digital marketing strategies and tools. She didn't know how to engage her target audience, who were largely found online.

That's why she signed up for Squared Online for SMEs.

Launched in 2017, the digital marketing leadership programme is a partnership between Google, global training provider Avado and the Infocomm Media Development Authority of Singapore (IMDA).

Overall, the game plan is to train 1,000 digital leaders under the Squared Online for SMEs programme by 2019.

Laura Liu
Budding tech entrepreneur Laura Liu (second from left) was the only recipient of the Inspirational Square award in her cohort.

Participants attended online classes put together by industry experts, over a period of 24 weeks. The syllabus gave them an in-depth knowledge of topics including social, mobile and data analytics, as well as advice on how these fit in with participants’ business models.

“By taking a close look at my business model, target audience and the wider digital landscape, I was able to come up with the best strategy going forward,” Ms Liu said.

She is also taking the next step – finding the right digital tools for her business – and is considering using Firebase, a Google-acquired platform that provides real-time data on user activity. Her app, PumpPump! was recently launched on the Apple App Store.

Training leaders in the digital sphere

Ms Liu stood out among almost 100 recent graduates of Squared Online for SMEs.

She received the Inspirational Square award – the only recipient from her class – for her knowledge sharing, expertise and support to the rest of her fellow students.

The top 10 per cent of participants received Squared Distinctions. This took into consideration peer feedback, participation rates and individual assessments.

Minister Dr Yaacob Ibrahim
Minister Dr Yaacob Ibrahim (right) enjoying the sample lesson of the Squared Online for SMEs programme.

Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, the Minister for Communications and Information, presented certificates to these outstanding participants on 14 March 2018 at Google Singapore. The participants came from 79 local companies from a range of industries, including beauty, retail and manufacturing.

Also in attendance were industry partners, and representatives from trade unions, government agencies, and trade associations and business chambers.

Guests had the opportunity to hear from selected graduates, and experience a taster class. There, trainers from AVADO introduced features of the virtual classroom, including a live-streamed class with chat functionality and access to various course materials.

Squared Online for SMEs was part of a wider nationwide plan to accelerate the digitisation of all industries, Dr Yaacob noted.

“In the digital economy, organisations from all sectors will need to be agile and harness infocomm technologies to boost their capabilities and to stay competitive,” he explained.

The programme complements the TechSkills Accelerator (TeSA), which encourages current and aspiring information and communications technology professionals to upgrade themselves.

Digitalisation for all

Sharing Laura’s positive experience, Ms Winnie Ng, another course participant, said the programme allowed her to “bring back a certain understanding of trends, to talk to suppliers and different departments”.

Rahim Wambri
Mr Rahim Wambri says you have to go online to understand where the market is coming from.

She works as the Lead Specialist at the National Trades Union Congress.

“It was very interesting to share and learn from my teammates. The programme was very flexible. When I was travelling, I could catch up with lessons whenever I had Wi-Fi,” she added.

Another participant, Mr Rahim Wambri, said he managed to keep up with classes, despite having gruelling 12-hour work days.

He juggles both hands-on work and marketing duties at HRD Professional Handyman.

Thanks to the programme, he says that the returns from marketing initiatives has tripled.

“Most people (in traditional trades) would still use flyers or word-of-mouth. They cannot grow. You have to go online to understand where the market is coming from,” he said.

On its first run, participants achieved an impressive 85 per cent passing rate, higher than the global average of 82 per cent.

“It really shows that Squared Online for SMEs has resonated with them. They're trying to get on top of digital transformation,” said Ms Sandy Tsang, Managing Director for APAC at Avado.

Stephanie Davis Google
Ms Stephanie Davis, Country Director of Google Singapore.

Why SMEs?

SMEs may not have large marketing teams or budgets. But they make up 99 per cent of businesses in Singapore, and employ 70 per cent of its workforce, reiterated Ms Stephanie Davis, Country Director of Google Singapore.

“This programme is something that puts together the content that our Singaporean SMEs need to make the transition online... and come out feeling much more equipped to run their businesses from a digital standpoint,” she said.

The participants of the programme are essential for the era of the digital economy.

“In a digital economy, every business needs to be a digital business. We hope to train more leaders in SMEs to pick up new digital skill sets to transform their businesses, reach out to customers and seize market opportunities overseas,” said Mr Tan Kiat How, Chief Executive of IMDA.

Interested in the Squared Online for SMEs programme? Visit the website now to apply for the first intake for 2018.