Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are the backbone of most economies worldwide, and Singapore is no exception. Singaporean SMEs employ two-thirds of the workforce and contribute nearly half of the city state’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Covid-19 has wiped out thousands of SMEs, particularly in the Food & Beverage and retail sectors, with the remainder forced to go online and embrace e-commerce to ensure survival. And although the vaccine rollout is gathering steam, this consumer shift is here to stay.

While uncertainty is a constant in business, the adoption of modern technologies that provide SME owners reliable and up-to-date data reduces risk levels and allows enterprises to adapt quickly to unforeseen changes. With real-time data at their fingertips, SMEs can stay afloat during uncertainties by scrutinising cash flows, shifting business resources, and being lean, mean and responsive to sudden and unpredictable events.

Keeping SMEs afloat in uncertain times

Oracle NetSuite is one of the world’s leading enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions, enabling businesses to manage inventory, track financials, host e-commerce stores and maintain customer relationship management systems.

Peter Quek, ASEAN General Manager of Oracle NetSuite recalled that when the pandemic hit, the immediate challenges were about securing the safety of the employees while ensuring that the operations were not impacted, and allowing business to carrry on .

“I had the privilege of talking to the CEO of Unistar — a credit and finance company based in the Philippines who invested in NetSuite almost four years ago. Amidst Covid-19, all of their offices and outlets were closed but they were able to continue business as usual. This not only helped them but their customers as well,” he said.

One such SME customer is Zilingo, a B2C fashion and lifestyle e-commerce startup operating in Asia Pacific and the U.S. The fashion industry as a whole was hard hit by the pandemic, but Zilingo was able to stay agile and adapt to the evolving needs of its customers.

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COO Aadi Vaidya said, “The first thing we did was to see what our manufacturers were capable of doing with whatever they had. Thanks to NetSuite’s ERP, we quickly helped our lingerie manufacturers based in Sri Lanka switch to producing masks while our beauty manufacturers began producing hand sanitisers. That way, Zilingo’s operations could continue and we could weather the storm.”

Scalable, accessible and reliable

Even the smallest of SMEs use some form of accounting software to track finances, but the data collected is largely surface level and divorced from other parts of the business. NetSuite’s cloud ERP solutions streamline financial data with other key processes in the organisation, allowing SMEs to manage orders, production, supply chain, procurement and fulfilment activities as well as oversee financial planning from one platform.

Having all the necessary business data in the cloud gives SMEs added advantages such as scalability and accessibility, especially during the pandemic when employees switched to home working. Additionally, regulators and governments responded to Covid-19 with added tax incentives and deductibles, which can be reflected in NetSuite’s cloud ERP for companies to easily update and access.

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The richness of data is vital even for those in the funding ecosystem, such as VC and NetSuite customer Accion Venture Lab.

Southeast Asia investment officer Paolo Limcaoco said: “It is almost impossible for a VC to invest into a startup where data visibility is lacking because that does not give us the whole picture- cash crunch, revenues, monthly burn and other key points. This was important even before the pandemic but has become even more pertinent now.”

Driving productivity and efficiency

Studies show that the digitalisation of Singapore SMEs could add up to US$24 billion to the country’s GDP by 2024 due to higher revenue and productivity gains.

Peter from NetSuite believes data visibility is more crucial now than ever before.

“With a robust ERP, you have access to a wide range of data points that you can leverage to understand the gaps in operations. From efficiently managing working capital to handling supply chains with tact, data visibility is key to all crucial touchpoints that help with business growth,” he said.

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The Singapore government has stepped up efforts to provide incentives for SMEs to leverage digital technologies to transform their businesses, such as the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA)’s SMEs Go Digital programme.

Grants and funding support

A notable grant under this programme is the Productivity Solutions Grant (PSG), which helps fund SME adoption of pre-approved digital solutions such as customer relationship management, data analytics, financial management, inventory tracking, online collaboration tools, virtual meeting and telephony tools, queue management systems and temperature screening solutions.

SMEs can get up to 80% funding support by adopting a solution from the five pre-approved NetSuite SuiteSuccess solutions that have been designed to support growing businesses.

By reimbursing much of the cost of new technologies, the Singapore government via PSG plans to expedite SMEs’ implementation of smarter cloud solutions.

The PSG grant is open to businesses that are registered and operating in Singapore, of which a minimum of 30% is owned by local shareholders. The purchased/leased solutions (NetSuite’s ERP in this case) must be used in Singapore, and the company must have at least three local employees at the point of application or deployment of the solution.

Qualified SMEs can get pre-approved quotes from NetSuite, and discuss the specific solution with a NetSuite specialist consultant. After choosing a pre-approved solution, SMEs need to submit their application together with the pre-approved quote on the Business Grants Portal.

NetSuite pre-approved packages under the PSG will cover the first-year license, implementation services if included, Learning Cloud Support (LCS) training and the number of users included in the pre-approved package.

Disclosure: This article is produced by the e27 team, sponsored by NetSuite.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

The post Future-proofing Singaporean SMEs for a stronger digital future appeared first on e27.

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