Call made to build world-class SMEs

SCCCI president says their product and service must be world-standard

[SINGAPRE] THE president of the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCCI) has called for more to be done to develop world-class small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Singapore.

Thomas Chua pointed out that there are government programmes to help such businesses, but they become eligible for these grants and subsidies when they have achieved a certain amount of success.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the 16th Annual SMEs Conference and 17th Infocomm Commerce Conference organised by the SCCCI, he said that these homegrown businesses "may be good today and tomorrow", but the question of how sustainable they would be would depend on how they push to represent Singapore as world-class outfits.

"They don't have to be big, but their product, their technology, their service, must be able to compete on the global stage. That is my definition of a world-class SME," he said.

He added that SMEs need to be in a position of strength also to attract talent: "Even as our world-class education system churns out graduates in the polytechnics, ITEs or universities, how can SMEs compete with multinational companies for local talent?

"If our SMEs are struggling, who will want to join them? Even if a graduate doesn't mind taking the challenge, his parents won't encourage it. Only successful SMEs will be able to attract these graduates. We develop world-class talents, and they'll want to work at world-class SMEs."

Indeed, labour and rents have been two major concerns voiced by members of the SCCCI, he said.

A survey by the SCCCI last month found that 83 per cent of the 645 companies polled said they had been hit by rising business costs; a year ago, it was 74 per cent.

More businesses (46 per cent this year, against 39 per cent last year) reported thinner profit margins too.

To meet these challenges, 90 per cent of the companies surveyed said they had stepped up their productivity drive; 53 per cent were training their staff, and 42 per cent were leaning on technology and automation.

Nearly three-quarters (73 per cent) said they had applied for government productivity grants, a jump of 18 per cent from last year.

The Productivity and Innovation Credit Scheme (PIC) is the most popular scheme: of every 10 companies that applied for a productivity grant, nine applied for the PIC.

Mr Chua noted that micro SMEs are also becoming more active in applying for grants. Compared with a year ago, 59 per cent of micro SMEs surveyed said they had applied for grants, a jump of 14 per cent.

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