By Sheryl Lee
As CEO of urban gardening enterprise The Green Capsule (TGC), Mr Ricky Lim knows that there are reasons behind nature’s rhythms. Take the life cycle of a butterfly. When a caterpillar cocoons itself in a chrysalis, it’s easy to assume a lack of activity beneath the surface. But inside, the caterpillar is radically transforming to eventually emerge as a butterfly.
When Mr Lim closed TGC’s physical stores during the circuit breaker period, there was similarly no activity at its brick-and-mortar outlets. But just like a caterpillar, the company was undergoing a remarkable metamorphosis. Mr Lim was making use of this time to revamp TGC’s website. Just one week after the circuit breaker was announced, TGC launched its e-commerce portal for online customers. For his efforts to breathe new life into TGC’s digital platforms, Mr Lim received a Digital Resilience Bonus (DRB) payout from the Infocomm Media Development Authority’s (IMDA) SMEs Go Digital programme. Mr Lim also implemented a digital inventory management system to keep his records up to date.
“During the circuit breaker, our online sales tripled, and the e-commerce platform helped us a lot in tiding over that difficult period of time. With that, I was able to continue paying salary to my staff,” Mr Lim shared. “With the inventory management solution, my staff doesn’t have to manually check our inventories anymore!”
Paving the path for digitalisation
TGC is just one of the 2,700 Food Services and Retail enterprises that have received a total of $6.8 million in DRB payouts between August and October this year. Introduced as part of the Fortitude Budget, the DRB aims to help uplift the digital capabilities of a broad base of enterprises in Singapore, starting with the Food Services and Retail sectors as they are some of the industries hardest hit by COVID-19.
Under this initiative, eligible enterprises can receive payouts of up to S$10,000 when they adopt qualified digital solutions in different business categories including accounting, HR/payroll, inventory management, e-commerce, as well as data mining and analytics. TGC and T K Foto, a photographic equipment and accessories retailer, are two of many enterprises that received S$2,500 each in August for implementing e-commerce solutions in their businesses.
Minister for Communications and Information Mr S Iswaran, who visited TGC and T K Foto at Funan Mall on 6 November 2020, highlighted the positive trend of SMEs being increasingly aware of the need to digitalise. “That awareness is translating into tangible action steps that are reflected in the broader response to our SMEs Go Digital programme. The number of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that adopted digital solutions with support from the programme has doubled to 50,000 since March 2020,” he said.
Thriving in the digital age
Mr James Ng, managing director and third-generation owner of T K Foto, shared that the company expanded its online customer base by three times during circuit breaker thanks to its intensified digital marketing efforts. “If we had not digitalised when we did, the company would have been obsolete by now,” he said.
Apart from providing the company with an additional revenue channel, digitalisation has also enabled its staff to manage sales and inventory much more efficiently. Now, staff can generate sales and inventory reports in just ten minutes, which is considerably faster than the one week they previously took to manually consolidate data from multiple transactions.
As for TGC, Mr Lim hopes to advance his company’s digital journey by implementing a data mining and analytics solution. In doing so, he’ll be eligible for another DRB payout, this time worth S$5,000. Come December, he will open another TGC store at Great World City, and wishes to sync data from both locations to better analyse product sales and customer demographics. Using this information, he plans to set up a reward system and reach out to customers in a more targeted way through electronic newsletters.
“More SMEs are now seeing the benefits of digitalisation on multiple fronts, by reaching new customers with e-commerce and becoming more efficient in internal processes,” concluded Ms Jane Lim, IMDA’s Assistant Chief Executive for Sectoral Transformation. “We want to encourage SMEs that have not digitalised to start doing so now.”