US-ABC Hosts Webinar on Digital Transformation to Empower Singaporean SMEs During COVID-19

On October 14, nearly 150 owners and executives of Singapore SMEs participated in the webinar titled “Digital Transformation for Singapore SMEs during COVID-19.” The webinar is a collaborative event from the US-ASEAN Business Council with support from Enterprise Singapore and Singapore Business Federation.  The event was part of a broader webinar series in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

The webinar was officially opened by Ambassador Michael W. Michalak, Senior Vice President and Regional Managing Director of the US-ASEAN Business Council and Mr. Douglas Foo, BBM, Chairman of Sakae Holding Ltd. and Vice Chairman of Singapore Business Federation. There was also a keynote address from Mr. Ted Tan, Deputy Chief Executive Officer of ESG.

“In 2018, Singapore SMEs accounted for an estimated two-thirds of all employment and contributed to nearly half of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Accelerating digital adoption is essential to helping SMEs cope with the disruption.  What was once a nice enhancement to the SME business proposition, has now become an essential tool to enhance competitiveness and mitigate the risks from the COVID induced crisis” said Amb. Michalak, Senior Vice President and Regional Managing Director, US-ASEAN Business Council.

“Singapore SMEs are responding well to the challenges of COVID-19 pandemic by adopting new business models and digital transformation. Trade Associations such as the SBF and SMF are working with our Singapore government to ramp up our respective efforts to support our enterprises in their digital transformation journey to increase productivity and stay competitive.” Said Mr Douglas in his remarks.

“COVID-19 has reinforced the imperative for businesses to go digital, not only to overcome immediate challenges of the pandemic but to capture opportunities in new markets and expand their customer base internationally. Companies that have adopted digital solutions are able to make informed business decisions quickly based on real time data analysis and trends, leading to improved customer service and cost savings as resources are better optimised. Enterprise Singapore will continue to work with our partners and multipliers to provide targeted support to facilitate digital transformation that addresses the unique business needs of our SMEs.” said Mr Ted Tan in his keynote address.

Kunal Chatterjee, Country Manager of Visa Singapore and Brunei and Chavi Jafa, Head of Business Solutions from Visa Asia Pacific presented during the first session on the topic, where they shared about trends relating to impact of COVID-19 on consumer preferences and small business and highlighted how small businesses can navigate the changing landscape and go digital. This was followed by a presentation from Rajesh Patil, Territory and Channel Manager of Adobe on the topic, “Digital Solutions for SMEs.”

SMEs are a crucial segment of the Singapore economy, making up 99 percent of all enterprises and 72 percent of the total labor force. SMEs also contributed to 44 percent of the nominal value added to the economy, according to Singapore Department of Statistics. However, SMEs are also some of the businesses most impacted by COVID-19.

The latest SBF-Experian SME Index, a joint initiative of the Singapore Business Federation (SBF) and information services company Experian, saw SMEs’ business sentiment drop to 46.3 points, the lowest level since the inception of the gauge in 2009. This virtual workshop demonstrates the Council’s commitment to supporting Singaporean SMEs and the local economy by empowering SMEs to digitally transform and transition into the new business environment. Visa, a Vice Chair of the Council’s Financial Services Committee and sponsor of the SME program, also believe the importance in promoting use of digital payments and harnessing digital payment solutions to help businesses grow amid the pandemic. This is the second webinar led by Visa, the first previously held in the Philippines on May 29.

SME capacity building has been a key pillar of the Council for nearly one decade. In 2011, the US-ASEAN Business Council established a training program for ASEAN SMEs in response to a request by ASEAN Economic Ministers (AEM) to support ASEAN SMEs leverage technology and the intra-global consumer and supply base. Today, nearly 7,500 SMEs have benefitted from Council’s SME programs in all ten ASEAN Member States. This workshop webinar is the second workshop the Council has done in Singapore, with the first one held in 2016.

“We’re pleased to be a sponsor of the SME program and host the webinar series to share content and insights that we believe would support SMEs on their digital transformation journey. COVID-19 has greatly disrupted the change in consumer behaviour and accelerated the adoption of digital technology. Small and medium businesses as a result, who have not embraced digital technology, have seen an impact to their businesses. Hence, we want to help these SMEs pivot their businesses by sharing digital solutions that would help them grow their businesses in this new business environment. We’re also happy to provide US-ABC content from our Practical Business Skills and host it on their learning platform to help SMEs,” said Kunal Chatterjee, Visa Country Manager for Singapore & Brunei.

In line with going digital, the Council launched the online ASEAN SME Academy, a self-help and self-paced online learning platform for SMEs, in 2016. The academy offers free courses and resources from the Council’s member companies. The Academy is co-administered with the Philippines Department Trade and Industry (DTI) and Philippine Trade Training Centre (PTTC) on behalf of the Coordinating Committee on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (ACCMSME). You can read more about the academy and access it here www.asean-sme-academy.org.

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For over 35 years, the US-ASEAN Business Council has been the premier advocacy organization for US corporations operating within the dynamic Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Worldwide, the Council's membership, more than 160 companies, generate over $6 trillion in revenue and employ more than 13 million people globally. Members include the largest US companies conducting business in ASEAN, and range from newcomers to the region to companies that have been working in Southeast Asia for over 100 years. The Council has offices in: Washington, DC; New York, NY; Bangkok, Thailand; Hanoi, Vietnam; Jakarta, Indonesia; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Manila, Philippines; and Singapore.