Mr Kurt Wee, President, Association of Small and Medium Enterprises,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. Good morning. This is my second year attending the SME Centre Conference, and it is my pleasure to be back again. I would like to start by thanking the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (ASME) for inviting me to be a part of this year’s conference. A big thank you also to all at the SME Centres and Enterprise Singapore for their continued support for our SMEs throughout the pandemic, and for making this event possible.
2. Last year, many SMEs had to adapt quickly to the multiple changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and embrace new operating models to survive and thrive. The journey has not been easy as business owners had to rethink or change their plans for development, while pivoting business operations in an uncertain climate.
3. The theme for this year’s conference, “Unleash Business Growth, Transform for Success” echoes a point that PM Lee Hsien Loong raised during his National Day Rally speech just a few weeks ago. Prime Minister Lee called on Singapore to “change gears” - for beyond survival, we must continue to focus on generating new growth, new jobs and prosperity for the future.
4. As the drive for vaccination continues, we are taking calibrated steps to reopen our borders and pursue longer-term economic growth. Beyond survival, we seek to thrive in the new normal. While it will not be an easy journey, the Government’s assurance to you, our SMEs and our business owners, is that we will continue to work closely with you and your company to generate business growth and transform for success. One important way to do this is through the SME Centres.
SME Centres will continue to support the capability development of all enterprises
5. Set up by Enterprise Singapore together with five trade associations and chambers, our SME Centres provide business advisory and drive capability upgrading among micro and small enterprises. In 2021 alone, SME Centres have assisted over 20,000 enterprises. And we have a few more months to go. We look forward to supporting more micro enterprises and more SMEs, so do reach out to the network of business advisors.
6. To continue supporting the varied needs of SMEs amidst the evolving business landscape, our 12 SME Centres have been strengthening their capabilities on various fronts. I will share three main enhancements to our 12 SME Centres this year.
7. First, to assist companies with their human capital development, SME Centres have partnered with the Institute for Human Resource Professionals (IHRP) to train Business Advisors in using the Human Capital Diagnostics Tool (HCDT) navigator. COVID-19 tells us that human capital deployment recruitment and retention are important differentiations.
a. Developed by IHRP, the HCDT Navigator is a complimentary self-help diagnostic tool offering a summarised view of a company’s human capital maturity. I want to assure you that an assessment can be completed in less than 30 minutes.
b. Come November, SMEs with manpower-related enquiries may approach our Business Advisors stationed in our 12 SMECs to undergo the HCDT Navigator assessment. Our Business Advisors can then help you use the results to develop customized strategies to address specific human capital gaps that have been identified within their companies.
8. Second, specialist advisors have been deployed at selected SME Centres in 2021 to address SMEs’ queries on financing. We know COVID-19 has disrupted operations and financing. That is why a few months back during the Committee of Supply debate, I spoke about providing more support for SMEs. Since February, these specialists have engaged over 400 SMEs in capability workshops and given advice on matters such as the companies’ financial health, kinds of financing options for business growth and loan applications. Sometimes we need some help in terms of navigating the many options. We want to be there to support you as you navigate the financing landscape.
9. Third, SME Centres have been working closely with promising SMEs to co-develop and implement growth roadmaps.
10. One such SME is Asyura Paste. This company manufactures pastes for various dishes such as rempah goreng, lontong, curry chicken and sambals.
a. Asyura Paste started as a home business by Mdm Norhuda Rabani. The leap from selling to friends and family to a becoming a full-fledged food manufacturer takes astute planning. To better understand the type of investment, resources and steps to scale her business, Mdm Norhuda approached the SME Centre@SMCCI for advice.
b. With the help of SMEC@SMCCI, Mdm Norhuda started operations at a factory in Tuas which allowed her to automate the production of frozen paste to cater for larger B2B orders. So she can now supply to restaurants. She also developed a version of her products with a longer shelf life which enabled the product to be stocked in shops and homes at room temperature and doesn’t need to be stored in refrigerators. And anyone in the food business will know that this is really a game changer. It is game changing because now, she doesn't just give it to only friends and families and have it eaten within one or two hours; it can be stored in the shops. You can continue to supply to restaurants, but now, you can also export.
c. Today, Asyura Paste can be found in supermarkets, online and e-commerce platforms. That is the transformation that digitalisation, and the support of the business advisors providing advice on growth roadmaps, can make in the scaling up of your business. The company has also shifted to a larger factory to meet growing demand from overseas markets. SME Centre@SMCCI is also continuing to work with Mdm Norhuda to realise her dream of expanding overseas to countries like Australia and China.
11. These initiatives are just some of the ways that the 12 SME Centres can support SMEs at different points of their growth journey to realise and maximise new business potential. You can tap on any of our 12 SME Centres to conduct a human capital diagnosis for your staffing needs, or get advice on financing or your strategy for growth or transformation. I encourage you to make an appointment with our business advisors via the Enterprise Singapore’s website.
The Government remains committed to support businesses in their transformation for long term growth
12. Besides the SME Centres, there are other forms of support that SMEs can tap on to transform.
a. Since the Covid-19 pandemic, many companies have pivoted online and sought help from SME Centres on digital marketing. To enable more SMEs to build their digital capabilities, we will be expanding the Productivity Solutions Grant (PSG) to include digital marketing solutions from October 2021 onwards. We are enhancing the productivity solutions plan to support digital marketing needs of SMEs, to help SMEs build online presence and grow their business. Let me quickly cite some examples. You can tap on PSG to develop your digital marketing strategy, create content and execute digital marketing campaigns to support, and boost the business. SMEs can also use this grant to build an online customer base, to help drive traffic to the brick and mortar stores. Apart from digital marketing solutions, companies can achieve productivity gains by adopting existing solutions under PSG. This includes IT solutions, equipment and consultancy services. To find out more about the enhanced PSG, make an appointment with the business advisors from any of the SME Centres to find out more.
b. ESG also offers the Enterprise Development Grant (EDG) which supports SMEs in their efforts to upgrade, innovate and venture overseas. As announced in Budget 2021, the enhanced support levels of up to 80% of costs have been extended until end March 2022.
13. Apart from support for SMEs to transform, the Government also ensures that the current regulatory system continues to support innovative or novel business ideas to encourage stronger business growth. The Pro-Enterprise Panel (PEP) under the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) works closely with public agencies, not just within MTI but across various Ministries, to provide timely, effective, and practical solutions that address the regulatory concerns businesses may face. Out of over 2000 suggestions received till date, more than half have translated to actual changes that benefit businesses. If you have any suggestions on how we can improve our regulations to better facilitate your business, or if you have a novel business idea to testbed in Singapore, I encourage you to approach PEP.
14. On behalf of my Enterprise Singapore team, I want to encourage our SMEs to continue to grow by taking the step to transform. Our 12 SME Centres, our hardworking and committed business advisors in these 12 centres, and the Government stand ready to support you on this journey.
Conclusion: We did it before and we will do it again.
15. I know that it has been a rollercoaster ride for many of our small business owners, SMEs and micro enterprises, since the onset of COVID-19. We want to thank you for bearing with the various SMMs and for adapting. We want to thank you for keeping the faith and not giving up. Together, let’s continue to work together to seize every opportunity to thrive in the new normal. We have done it before, and we will do it again.
16. Thank you and I wish you all a very fruitful conference.
 The trade associations and chambers are Association of Small & Medium Enterprises, Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Singapore Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Singapore Malay Chamber of Commerce & Industry and Singapore Manufacturing Federation