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Singapore SMEs get a leg-up going digital with wholesale trade industry digital plan

MORE than 33,000 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Singapore can stand to gain from the new wholesale trade industry digital plan (IDP) launched on Monday by Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Koh Poh Koon during his visit to SATS BRF Food.

The IDP is a guide to help wholesale trade SMEs assess their digital readiness and opportunities to go digital, as one of the strategies under the wholesale trade Industry Transformation Map rolled out last year to help more trading companies adopt digital technology and internationalise.

The wholesale trade industry is a major contributor to Singapore’s economy, accounting for about 16 per cent of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2017, with SMEs making up 97 per cent of the establishments.

With more than 80 per cent of its sales derived from overseas markets, the sector is highly influenced by the evolving global trading environment such as the rise of digital business-to-business (B2B) marketplaces and the use of blockchain and artificial intelligence to improve trade processes.

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Therefore, building up the necessary digital capabilities required to compete effectively is increasingly critical for trading companies.

The plan comprises a three-stage digital roadmap that charts out the different digital solutions that wholesale trade SMEs can adopt at each phase of their growth, as well as the relevant training programmes required to enhance employees’ digital skill sets.

The first stage is to help SMEs get ready for the digital economy and lists the basic digital solutions to stay competitive, with enterprise resource planning solutions for sales and inventory management to streamline operations and optimise resources as one example.

This is followed by highlighting digital solutions that enable SMEs to connect with the global trading ecosystem and access new markets, such as plugging into B2B e-marketplaces and online platforms for supply-chain financing and procurement.

The third stage is to identify advanced digital technologies that SMEs can implement to improve their competitive edge in cross-border trading.

The IDP is part of the SMEs Go Digital Programme, jointly developed by Enterprise Singapore and the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), in consultation with industry associations, SkillsFuture Singapore, Ngee Ann Polytechnic and the National Trades Union Congress.

On the sidelines of the company visit, three seafood associations - the Punggol Fish Merchants Association, Seafood Industries Association Singapore and Singapore Fish Merchants’ General Association - and a technology platform solution provider, vCargo Cloud, inked a memorandum of understanding to establish the first seafood B2B e-marketplace in Singapore.

It aims to revolutionise the local seafood trade, traditionally known to be a sector laden with paper-based and manual processes.

Through this platform, seafood associations aim to improve operational efficiency by streamlining seafood trading processes such as procurement and sales management, and deliver better business insights through analytics.

The platform will offer Singapore seafood merchants greater access to overseas markets through online trading of chilled and frozen seafood, as well as help reduce the cost of fulfilment and enable merchants to achieve economies of scale through shared services.

Supported by Enterprise Singapore and the IMDA, this industry-led initiative will bring onboard about 50 seafood merchants and their trading partners within the first two years.