(Singapore) – The US-ASEAN Business Council (US-ABC) held a workshop for Singapore SMEs at Visa University, Singapore, on March 7, 2023. The event focused on enhancement of women entrepreneurship through digital readiness and resiliency, in line with the theme of celebrating International Women’s Day 2023. The hybrid event featured speakers from Enterprise Singapore, Singapore Business Federation, and SGTech. In total, the program was attended by 44 participants, a majority of which were female business leaders.
The workshop is part of the Council’s ongoing SME Workshop Series: Building Resiliency for ASEAN SMEs, and it was the 4th workshop conducted in Singapore since 2014. This workshop was supported by Visa, whose representatives spoke on the opportunities and challenges behind digitalizing women-owned businesses.
The workshop was officially opened with remarks from Ambassador Michael W. Michalak, Senior Vice President and Regional Managing Director, US-ABC, and Ms. Adeline Kim, Country Manager for Singapore and Brunei, Visa.
“Last year, the Singapore Government launched its White Paper on Women’s Development which highlighted the importance of supporting women even though only 27,5% of business owners in Singapore are women. This gender gap is due to several factors, such as a lack of access to networks and social capital, perceptions of gender bias, and challenges in scaling up female-operated businesses. Especially in this digital economy era, which should usher in greater equality for all participants in business, women entrepreneurs face challenges in gaining digital access and literacy, e-payments, navigating complex e-commerce regulations, and securing the safety of conducting business online,” said Amb. Michalak. “We hope that this workshop provides more opportunities for women leaders to connect and exchange insights, on how to further their own professional and personal ambitions. We have also framed our workshop content to align with Enterprise Singapore’s priorities: Productivity, Innovation, and Internationalization, with the aim to support Singaporean SMEs upskilling, especially in key areas such as digitalization and innovation.”
Ms Adeline Kim, Visa Country Manager for Singapore & Brunei, said “At Visa, we are committed to ensuring that SMEs have access to and embrace digital technology. We are excited to partner with the US-ASEAN Business Council to conduct this series of workshops to support SMEs in their digital transformation journeys. Based on a Visa Back to Business study, three in four businesses say that adoption of new forms of payment is fundamental to their business growth. Moving key services and payments online is no longer an option, but a necessity for SMEs’ business continuity and growth, especially in this hyperconnected world that we are living in.”
In support of inclusive digitalization of businesses in Singapore, US-ABC joined hands with its member companies to provide technical capacity-building and help Singapore SMEs accelerate their digital capabilities, with the goal of enabling them to be more productive and thrive in the digital economy. The first session of the workshop featured Mr. Soh Leng Wan, Assistant Chief Executive Officer for Industry Clusters Manufacturing & Engineering, Enterprise Singapore, and Mr. Albert Tsui, Executive Director for Policy and Advocacy, Singapore Business Federation, in a fireside chat and discussed ways to support Singapore SMEs’ digitalization, especially the women entrepreneurs.
The second session featured a company showcase from Visa presented by Ms. Patsian Low, Vice President of Social Impact for Asia Pacific, Visa, followed by a dialogue with Ms. Charmain Tan, Founder of Quickdesk, discussing her experience as a female founder in the digital economy.
Finally, in the last session, business associations shared ways to leverage women leaders’ and skill growth for readiness and resilience in the digital economy. The speakers for this session were Ms. Jen Nie Kwok, CEO of Xcellink and 2nd Vice Chairman of the Singapore Enterprise Chapter, SGTech and Ms. Nugraheni Utami, Manager for Indonesia and SME Initiatives, US-ASEAN Business Council. They shared about women’s roles and the importance of upskilling, Singapore Enterprise Chapter’s works in SGTech and ASEAN SME Academy platform.
The ongoing capacity-building initiatives in the ASEAN Member States (AMS) have been a critical pillar of the US-ABC since 2011 in response to ASEAN Economic Ministers' (AEM) request. The SME program aims to support ASEAN SMEs in leveraging technology and the intra-global consumer and supply base. In addition to the training activities, the ASEAN SME Academy (the Academy) – a free online learning platform for SMEs was created and co-administered with the Philippines Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and Philippine Trade Training Centre (PTTC) on behalf of the ASEAN Coordinating Committee on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (ACCMSME).