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Over 500 SMEs gain digital access to new markets overseas

DESPITE the Covid-19 pandemic, more than 500 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Singapore were able to access new markets overseas through e-commerce platforms under the Grow Digital scheme. 

And with continued uncertainty over how long the pandemic will last, companies must still diversify their revenue sources, strengthen their value proposition to customers, and figure out a way to operate safely while remaining commercially viable, said Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Chee Hong Tat at an industry webinar on Monday. 

"The adoption of digital solutions enhances the company’s resilience and opens up new possibilities," he added. 

Introduced during Budget 2020 in February, Grow Digital is a joint initiative by Enterprise Singapore (ESG) and the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) under the "SMEs Go Digital" programme. The scheme aims to help SMEs access overseas opportunities without having to establish an in-market physical presence.

It involves using business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) e-commerce platforms, through which SME suppliers are matched to potential overseas clients; they can also gain access to financing, and integrate with logistics firms for last-mile delivery.

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The Grow Digital scheme now has five B2B platforms - including Innovative Hub and EzyProcure - and six B2C solution partners - including SingPost e-Commerce and Synagie. These partners are pre-approved by ESG and IMDA for their "strong" regional or global networks, complementary business services providers such as logistics and financing, proven track records and experience in operating in multiple overseas markets.

To provide further support for SMEs during the Covid-19 pandemic, eligible SMEs that sign up for the multichannel e-commerce platform programme under Grow Digital between April 1 and Sept 30 will receive up to 90 per cent in grant support, versus up to 70 per cent previously. 

Businesses that have benefited from Grow Digital include Yappy Pets, one of the biggest distributors and suppliers of pet food in Singapore, and local eyewear chain Nanyang Optical. 

Yappy Pets, founded in 1994, had no online presence before it signed up for the multi-channel e-commerce platform programme under Grow Digital in February. Doing so has not only helped it to open up direct B2C online sales channels, but has also enabled it to access overseas customers in Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. 

Nanyang Optical was highlighted as an example by the minister during the webinar. The company signed up for the multi-channel e-commerce platform programme last month to create a local online presence, in a bid to reach more customers during the "circuit-breaker" period.

Mr Chee described Nanyang Optical's results as "very encouraging". The company is planning to expand its e-commerce business overseas, starting from Indonesia, by adopting JD and Shopee’s e-commerce platforms. 

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