Opening Speech by MOS Alvin Tan at Grow with Google for SMEs 2023

Opening Speech by MOS Alvin Tan at Grow with Google for SMEs 2023

Ben King, Managing Director, Google Singapore,




1. It is good to see Google play so many different roles, particularly one that is close to my heart, SMEs. When I was going around this morning talking to our SME owners here, it also reminded me of my mum, in fact my mum also owned a SME. She was selling Korean furniture. I was a young boy and at that time, the internet was not happening yet. I could just imagine how we could have turbo charged the small furniture business, just as how Shue Ying and her father digitalised their business. It is only possible because not just the SMEs that play such a critical role, but also the partners, like colleagues from Enterprise Singapore that support and Google that provide the platform to turbocharge what SMEs are trying to do today.


2. I just got back from Africa and did not have the time to write my speech so I went on Bard and I asked Bard to write a speech and this is what Bard said.


3. SMEs are the backbone of the Singapore economy. They account for 99% of all enterprises in Singapore, and they employ 71% of our workforce. They play a vital role in our economy and we are committed to helping them succeed. I think that applies to all of us, SMEs, Enterprise Singapore, Singapore Government as well as Google.


4. One of the most important ways we can help SMEs is by helping them digitalise. The digital economy is growing rapidly, and SMEs that do not adopt new technologies will be left behind. The Singapore Government is providing a number of support measures to help SMEs digitalise.


5. Let me just share some examples of how the Singapore Government is helping SMEs:


a. Enterprise Singapore and the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) introduced Start Digital, to help SMEs access foundational courses and digital solutions, such as accounting and e-payment solutions.


b. Then we have Our Heartlands Go Digital programme helps our heartland shops go digital develop digital solutions in areas of e-payments, business productivity,  digital marketing skills as well as expand your reach in the online space.


6. We have made great progress with these initiatives. Three in four firms in Singapore today use at least one digital solution in their business operations.


7. I just got back from Africa. And there is an African proverb that says, “if you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together”. There is also a report recently by the Edelman Trust Barometer  that  states that trust in Singapore is strong. What is unique about the report is that it suggested that Government and businesses working together is 4x more likely to yield optimal results than if they worked in cylos.   So if you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far and expand, then go together.


8. Hence our partnership with Google and SMEs, not just represented here but also those mentioned by Ben!


a. Ben earlier announced the Google Career Certificates for SMEs (GCC) Programme that would help SMEs equip their staff with relevant tech skills in areas of data analytics, UX design and project management on  Coursera platform.


b. I am happy to note that we are the fourth country that Google has launched GCC for SMEs. So thank you Google for choosing to partner us!


9. To our SMEs here and beyond, GCC will help you build new tech skills and capabilities.  Along with other efforts, we hope it will upgrade workers’ skills and help them prepare for the Digital Economy. In fact the digital economy, we always says it is coming, but in fact it has already been here for some time.


10. So we are also here today to congratulate the first cohort of the Digital Practitioner’s Programme (DPP) on your graduation. I think many of you are represented here.


11. DPP has always been focused on supporting smaller SMEs, including our heartland enterprises, to deepen their digital marketing capabilities and groom their in-house teams since its launch in 2019.


a. As of April 2023, a total of 51 companies, many of whom are here today, have participated in the two runs of the DPP.


b. 33 of these companies have completed the programme while the remaining 18 companies will complete the programme by July.


12. Our DPP participants span the Retail, F&B, and Services sectors.


13. We have seen some encouraging initial outcomes from this programme. Let me share two examples.


a. Fun Learners’ School, a heartlands education company, has received around 50,000 views for their YouTube videos, and converted close to 60 leads. This has resulted in an estimated 15% increase in revenue. To support this growth in business, Fun Learners’ School plans to hire more staff to sustain its digital marketing efforts.




14. In closing, here’s what Bard says to say to SMEs like yourselves to encourage you to digitalise:

a. Digitalisation can help you improve your efficiency and productivity

b. Digitalisation can help you provide better customer service

c. Digitalisation can help you reach new markets and expand your business

d. Digitalisation is worth the effort


15. On the topic of Bard, there is a Bard that is more famous than the Google Bard and that is Shakespeare and I thought to share some words of wisdom from the real Bard. In the play “As You Like It” there was a character that William Shakespeare moulded, a court jester by the name of Touchstone. Touchstone is a wise man who knows that he does not know anything. He is humble and willing to learn from others. Touchstone famously said that “a fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool”.


16. In this regard, I hope we are all fools and that we keep wanting to learn more and keep opening our minds to the possibilities the digital future and digital present might bring and to also support all our SMEs as we journey together. Congratulations to our SMES and graduands and a big thank you to Google for having us.  

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