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SMEs to get help in adopting technologies

''It is through innovation that companies stay ahead of the competition, strengthen operational efficiencies, increase market share, or even create new markets.'' - Spring's CEO Tan Kai Hoe


MORE than 400 Singapore small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) will soon have improved access to technological innovations and digital and mobile marketing tools, with the launch of five new collaborative industry projects (CIPs) on Thursday.

Three of the five projects will help SMEs adopt radio frequency and identification (RFID) and image recognition technologies; the remaining two projects promise to boost their sales performance and their marketing and customer-engagement efforts.

The five CIPs were announced by Minister of State for Trade and Industry Teo Ser Luck at the inaugural SME Capabilities Forum.

The CIP scheme, established in 2013 with the support of Spring Singapore, encourages SMEs to pool their resources and to jointly develop solutions to raise productivity. SMEs are encouraged to form groups with other enterprises and industry partners such as trade associations to carry out these projects.

So far, more than 20 CIP projects have taken off, benefiting more than 300 SMEs.

For the RFID projects, Spring and A*Star teamed up and appointed three companies to develop:

* the Smart Management Tracking System for the tracking of items;

* Pocket-Trips, a mobile app for interactive outdoor learning trails; and

* Knorex Arise, an augmented-reality platform to improve customer engagement.

To adopt those technologies, 200 SMEs will receive funding from Spring and technical expertise from A*Star.

Florence Toh, assistant general manager of fishball manufacturer Ha Li Fa, told The Business Times that the smart-tracking system would come in useful in tracking the baskets used to hold the company's products during deliveries.

"The baskets often get lost, and each one costs S$20," she said, adding that Ha Li Fa may also be able to use the Pocket-Trips app for its annual staff-bonding trip overseas, although more details are needed before the company signs up for it.

One of the projects aimed at boosting SMEs' sales, marketing and customer engagement is the Dodoca Integrated Mobile Marketing and Productivity Solution (DIMMPS) project.

Led by Dodoca Information Technology (S), it will provide about 150 heartland SMEs - among them are florists, clinics, jewellery stores and beauty salons - with an integrated IT solution based on the WeChat mobile app; with this, they can catch the wave of the online-to-offline mobile marketing trend.

WeChat has proven its usefulness in e-commerce and mobile marketing, particularly for businesses in China.

Dodoca Singapore's executive chairman Lim Sah Soon told BT that a key feature of DIMMPS is the setting up of an official WeChat merchant account and online store, which will help HDB shopowners reach out to the mainland Chinese in Singapore.

He said: "For example, Chinese tourists usually go to Orchard Road to shop for branded goods, but neighbourhood shopping centres also sell such handbags and watches. With WeChat, some tourists will be drawn to the heartlands."

Other DIMMPS features include an automated appointment scheduler and a customer-management system.

Complementing DIMMPS is the CIP led by Digital Influence Lab, which will provide training and consultancy to at least 50 SMEs in digital marketing capabilities; they will learn to map out a digital marketing strategy and implement digital marketing plans to expand overseas.

To sign up for CIPs, SMEs may contact the industry partner appointed for each project within the enrolment period. SMEs signed up for CIPs can get up to 70 per cent funding support for eligible adoption costs. They may also tap the Capability Development Grant for capability upgrading projects.

Spring's chief executive Tan Kai Hoe said: "It is through innovation that companies stay ahead of the competition, strengthen operational efficiencies, increase market share, or even create new markets."