Over 25,000 companies get help from SME Centres in 2022
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: Over 25,000 companies get help from SME Centres in 2022

Speaking at the SME Centre Conference on Wednesday (Sep 13), Minister of State for Trade and Industry Low Yen Ling (centre) said local companies should take wing overseas because of the smallness of Singapore's domestic market. PHOTO: ENTERPRISE SINGAPORE

MORE than 25,000 local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) received free assistance from SME Centres last year, benefiting from business advisory services, capability development programmes and upgrading initiatives.

The 11 SME Centres are run by Enterprise Singapore (EnterpriseSG) and five trade associations and chambers (TACs). To support SMEs in venturing abroad, EnterpriseSG and the TACs also organise overseas trips.

Last year, some 760 companies went on 70 business missions, and more than 1,700 attended 90 international trade fairs.

At the 10th annual SME Centre Conference on Wednesday (Sep 13), Minister of State for Trade and Industry Low Yen Ling highlighted the urgent need for local companies to internationalise, given the constraints of Singapore’s small domestic market.

“The increasing uncertainty in the global landscape really underscores the urgency for companies to bolster their resilience by diversifying, and also expanding into new markets,” she said.

SMEs that are just starting to explore internationalisation can explore self-help resources and seek guidance from consultants, she added, citing EnterpriseSG’s market guides and the government’s GoBusiness portal as starting points.

And, as companies internationalise, they need to know how to safeguard their commercial interests. Yet, the intellectual property (IP) aspect is “often overlooked”, Low said.

The recently-launched GoBusiness IP Grow platform was set up to bridge this gap. The online platform, launched on Sep 4, offers services relating to intangible assets (IA) and IP.

It is where SMEs can access automated e-adviser tools for live and customised recommendations, based on their individual expansion plans. They can also connect directly with service providers in the IP and IA spaces.

Other schemes to aid Singapore companies with overseas expansion include the GlobalConnect initiative. The first instance of this, under which EnterpriseSG partnered the Singapore Business Federation (SBF), was launched in November 2019.

Since then, GlobalConnect@SBF has enabled about 270 successful overseas ventures and provided more than 8,000 market advisories to local companies, Low said.

SBF has also strengthened its partnership with Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) and IPOS International, so that companies assisted by GlobalConnect@SBF can benefit from IP management advice.

Last month, the GlobalConnect@SCCCI initiative was launched by EnterpriseSG and the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce & Industry (SCCCI).

Under this, SCCCI and EnterpriseSG provide companies with support in networking, the exploration of new business opportunities and familiarisation with business norms and culture in China.

Wednesday’s SME Centre Conference, on the theme “From local to global”, was attended by about 900 delegates from the local business community, industry experts and business advisers from the SME Centres.

It featured an exhibition of 33 booths, along with panel discussions and speeches from industry players on topics such as digitalisation, regionalisation and IP.

Help from business advisers

For SME bosses, establishing whether their companies are eligible for a specific government grant can be difficult. This was the case for Lim Yen San, founder and general manager of IT equipment wholesaler DBR Systems.

Lim has thus sought help from a business adviser from the SME Centre run by EnterpriseSG and SCCCI. He told The Business Times: “He (the business adviser) texts me and says: ‘Lim, this grant is applicable to you. Let’s work towards it.’”

Besides helping with grants, the adviser has linked Lim up with consulting firm Orissa International, which advises companies on expansion into key markets in Asean.

With Orissa’s help, DBR Systems made forays into Malaysia in 2021, Thailand in 2022, and Vietnam early this year.

Another company that benefited from SME Centre advice was nonya kueh producer Lek Lim Nonya Cake Trading, which took part in its first trade show last year.

In April, the third-generation family business – supported by an SME Centre run by EnterpriseSG and the Singapore Manufacturing Federation – exported its products for the first time.

The purchase order from Australia was a small but significant step for the 55-year-old traditional food producer, managing director Gavan Sing said in Mandarin, noting that Singapore’s small market would eventually limit the growth of the business.

The company was able to consider exporting its products to Australia because it recently developed a frozen line of its products, which extended the shelf life of its kueh from a day to a year.

Australia was chosen as the company’s first overseas market because of a large Singaporean community there. Lek Lim Nonya Cake Trading now plans to export its products to other markets with resident Asians over the next five years, Sing disclosed.

Local brands such as Lek Lim should take pride and capitalise on their decades-old stories, which present a unique selling point when expanding overseas, he added.

Source: The Business Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.