By Kami Navarro
Though every business owner knows that it pays to be prepared for unforeseen crises, few would’ve anticipated the onset of the current COVID-19 pandemic. With much of the world reeling from the unprecedented spread of the virus, safe distancing is now the new normal—affecting all kinds of businesses, whether big or small.
Given their inextricable ties to their local communities, SMEs are especially vulnerable to the increasingly strict safe distancing measures that are necessary to safeguard public health. And yet, SMEs represent a key pillar of Singapore’s economy. In 2018, they accounted for 99% of Singapore’s enterprises and contributed to 48% of the country’s GDP. This makes their survival imperative, particularly in these uncertain times.
Fortunately, the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), along with key industry players and other government agencies, are answering the call to support SMEs amid the COVID-19 crisis. If you are an SME owner look no further; we’ve rounded up a selection of a few technology-oriented solutions to help your business stay afloat.
1. Heed the call to “Stay Healthy, Go Digital”
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, going digital isn’t a just a luxury anymore—it’s a necessity. Hence, IMDA is calling all businesses to “Stay Healthy, Go Digital”. There is government support for this too. IMDA, along with Enterprise Singapore (ESG), is putting in more resources to help more SMEs access digital solutions.
This includes an enhancement of the SMEs Go Digital programme, where SMEs receive funding support from the Productivity Solutions Grant (PSG) to adopt pre-approved digital solutions. The range of solutions supported has been expanded to include online collaboration and virtual meeting tools, as well as queue management and temperature screening systems. The funding has also been increased from 70% to 80% of qualifying costs, from 1 Apr 2020 to 31 Dec 2020.
Switching to e-invoicing has also never been easier. With IMDA’s E-invoicing Registration Grant, businesses will receive a one-time grant of $200 if they register on the Nationwide E-invoicing Network by 31 Dec 2020.
2. Take the digital leap with the Digital Solutions Package
E-commerce and digital business solutions have been around for a while now, but they’ve gained a newfound importance in the wake of COVID-19. SMEs everywhere now find online technologies essential, not just for reaching out to customers but also for running their businesses in general.
“Firms used to doing things in-person were caught off-guard by the evolving COVID-19 situation,” commented Mr Wong Wai Meng, Chairman of SGTech. “[But] the tech industry has ready offerings that can address these challenges.” Together with IMDA, SGTech rallied the industry to quickly assemble the Digital Solutions Directory for businesses to tap on, centred around the key areas of remote working, visitor management, selling online and billing and paying onlie.
These solutions include Cisco’s WebEx video conferencing platform, which can host up to 200 participants in a single virtual meeting, as well as Microsoft’s Teams, a chat-based tool with capabilities for video conferencing and online document collaboration. Telcos like Singtel are also offering comprehensive business continuity packages, including virtual workspaces and office numbers accessible from the comforts of home.
“We are heartened to see the industry step up with efforts to encourage digital adoption in support of our call to “Stay Healthy, Go Digital,” said Ms Jane Lim, Assistant Chief Executive of Sectoral Transformation, IMDA. “Going digital is key; it not only allows our local SMEs to tide through the current climate, but also positions them to emerge stronger and more competitive when the economy recovers,” she added.
“We are grateful to our tech industry for offering free trials or discounts to make it easy to try their solutions,” said Mr Wong. “We hope that firms, especially SMEs, can adopt some of these tools as they digitalise their business.”
3. Get personalised advice, straight from the experts
During turbulent times, it always helps to turn to an expert for advice—which is why the Singapore Computer Society has set up a webcast series just for that.
“We’re tapping on our communities of practice and collective knowledge from subject matter experts,” said SCS’ Ms Claudia Lim. Thus, in their ongoing Tech Talk series, SCS’ seasoned roster of professionals share lessons learnt from SARS and H1N1 and offer industry practices for crisis management to SMEs.The webcasts cover a thorough range of topics, including tips for doing business despite the DORSCON Alert Level Orange as well as using cloud platforms for business continuity during COVID-19.
What’s the best way to manage one’s workforce remotely? What are the best business practices to implement for social distancing? The answers to these and other questions can be found in the Tech Talks series, which will be releasing videos until May 2020.
In addition, under the SMEs Go Digital programme, SMEs can also receive cost-free digital consultancy from the SME Digital Tech Hub.
4. Work hand in hand with the media
Even outside times of crisis, the media are important allies to SMEs. After all, a good relationship with the media helps boost the profile of businesses while also providing an easy way to reach potential customers.
Recognising this, IMDA has put together several initiatives to support not just SMEs, but the media as well. These initiatives include a consolidated effort to fund media partners who can develop content promoting the use of e-services in daily activities or profile SMEs rising up to face the COVID-19 situation using technology.
IMDA’s Capability Partnership Programme, to be rolled out as early as April 2020, also aims to uplift the capabilities of Singapore media SMEs by encouraging collaboration with giants in the media industry, like Facebook, WarnerMedia Entertainment Networks APAC and ViacomCBS Networks Asia. In doing so, IMDA hopes to drive long-term business growth in Singapore’s media ecosystem even after the dust has settled.
Ultimately, IMDA recognises that SMEs form the backbone of Singapore’s economy. “In spite of the COVID-19 situation, we want to enable enterprises to carry on with their business operations as much as possible,” shared Ms Lim. Armed with these technology tools and more, local businesses can be assured that the government and industry players are all committed to helping SMEs weather this crisis.