Last updated: 06 November 2020

Published on: 06 November 2020

By SMEs Go Digital

Staying Focused on the Future

Mr James Ng, Managing Director of T K Foto, is ensuring the longevity of his family’s photography equipment business through continual digitalisation efforts.

When Mr Ng first joined the fold of T K Foto in 2004, the old-school processes at its standalone store at Shaw Towers were a sore point.

“We were using carbon paper receipts and a traditional cash register. And the staff had to manually enter data to generate sales reports, which took so much time,” the 43-year-old recalls in jest.

While Mr Ng was eager to modernise and improve productivity, his efforts were met with resistance.

“Most of our personnel were older than 50 and had never used a computer. The other challenge was the lack of suitable solution providers at the time,” shares Mr Ng who has since taken over the reins from his father.

Taking the first step

By 2010 however, he put his foot down and implemented the company’s first SAP Business One solution to support the operations at T K Foto’s new flagship store at Funan Mall.

And in 2014, to further streamline processes and integrate point-of-sales (POS) data and inventory tracking, Mr Ng purchased a Sales and Inventory Management solution from local developer Xintesys for their outlet in Plaza Singapura. Mr Ng later purchased the solution for their outlet in Funan in 2019, and costs for this were defrayed with the Productivity Solutions Grant (PSG).

T K Foto staff using a Sales and Inventory Management solution which seamlessly integrates its POS data and inventory tracking.

T K Foto’s digitalisation efforts did not stop there. It joined online retail platforms Lazada and Shopee in 2015 and upgraded its own e-commerce website in 2019.

Thanks to the SMEs Go Digital programme by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and Enterprise Singapore, T K Foto received funding support for a pre-approved solution offered by FirstCom Solutions. The company has also taken to using PayNow Corporate and has registered on InvoiceNow (a Nationwide E-invoicing Network) to facilitate business-to-business transactions. These overall efforts to boost online presence also qualified them for the Digital Resilience Bonus (DRB, Category 2) payout.

“If we had not [digitalised when we did], the company would have been obsolete by now,” he says emphatically.

Mitigating impact from Covid-19

While T K Foto did not invest much in driving online sales previously (it only accounted for two per cent of overall revenue), having the set-up in place made the Covid-19 fallout much less brutal for T K Foto.

“When the news of the Circuit Breaker broke, we took about a week to get our online sales platforms updated such as increasing the range of products available,” says Mr Ng, whose physical stores carry thousands of different items ranging from cameras and lenses to photo printers and lighting kits.

Despite the sharp fall in physical retail sales in 2020, the steps taken to improve online sales by T K Foto has helped to soften the impact of COVID-19 on the company's revenue, he shares. This is in large part due to business growth through online transactions – average monthly online sales have increased by 10 times during the crisis as compared to pre-COVID-19.

“If it hadn’t been for the Covid-19 situation, we would be seeing revenue growth this year. e-Commerce is clearly here to stay,” says Mr Ng.

The data (including consumer insights) gleaned from selling online also gave the team the confidence to launch the sale of audio accessories and equipment, a completely new product category that has proved relevant to their target consumers.

T K Foto launched a new audio accessories and equipment product category based on insights gleaned from its e-commerce solution

The DRB payout also came in handy at a time when purse strings needed to be tightened and more work was needed on the digital front. “With the money, we can further improve the website such as implementing PayNow as an additional payment option,” he shares.

T K Foto’s digitalisation journey has brought about a whole other range of operational benefits as well. Time savings were dramatic – sales reports that used to take one week to generate manually now takes only 10 minutes.

Staff, by now proficient with the platform, appreciate the efficiency and have more time for customer engagement and improving product knowledge. There is also dedicated focus to manning online sales channels.

And with technology driving processes, it is easier to attract young talent to join the company. “They can learn something new here instead of wasting time on unnecessary tasks,” he quips.

Next steps

The pinnacle of a digitalised business, says Mr Ng, is one where you are also able to inject the personal touch in the customer experience. He cites the example of Apple stores where customers can make payment at any spot using portable terminals. Stocks are also easily tracked through RFID tagging, an item on the wish list he hopes to check off in due time.

While the DNA of a post-Covid shopping environment is anyone’s guess, Mr Ng is keeping on top of the competition by ensuring relevance both online and offline.

“Singapore is small so people still like to shop physically but they’re always on their phone, so customers will be checking prices and product specs before they even visit your shop,” says the forward-looking honcho who is committed to making continual digitalisation upgrades.

His best advice for other SME retailers is to get up to speed with technology. “There’s no escaping; you have to reach customers on the digital side now. Whether it is changing up promotions or products, we need to always keep the interest alive.”

The SMEs Go Digital programme aims to make going digital simple for SMEs.

Under the programme, SMEs can receive up to 80% funding support from the Productivity Solutions Grant (PSG) if they adopt pre-approved digital solutions to take their businesses to the next level. There are pre-approved solutions for a range of sectors, including environmental services, food services, retail, security, wholesale trade and logistics.

A new initiative under SMEs Go Digital is the Digital Resilience Bonus, targeting Food Services and Retail enterprises as a start. Eligible enterprises can receive automatic one-time cash payouts of up to $10,000 when they register for PayNow Corporate and InvoiceNow (a Nationwide E-invoicing Network), as well as use qualified solutions that improve their business processes, enable them to reach out to customers online, and help them make data-driven business decisions for better outcomes.

Visit the SMEs Go Digital programme webpage for more information today. Subscribe to the SMEs Go Digital Telegram channel at https://t.me/SMEsGoDigital for updates on new resources and support available.

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