Leveraging technology to transform the way we feel, travel, and eat | Tech Industry
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Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) are an important part of Singapore’s business landscape.
With approximately 219,000 SMEs contributing S$196.8 billion in gross value to Singapore’s economy, efforts to strengthen SME capabilities and productivity go a long way to increasing the country’s economic resilience, vibrancy, and competitiveness.
In Singapore, digitalisation has been identified as a means to increase SME productivity, decrease operational costs, and improve business agility and transparency. Which is why the government, in a bid to drive business productivity by helping SMEs adopt technology solutions, has taken steps to support digitalisation with initiatives such as the Productivity Solutions Grant (PSG) – an initiative that provides companies with a subsidy of up to 70 percent on ready-to-adopt IT solutions.
Further, according to Minister for Trade and Industry, Chan Chun Seng, more than 1,300 enterprises have adopted over 50 technology solutions as of May 2018. The implementation of these solutions has already resulted in an average of 25 percent improvement in business productivity.
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But despite having proven benefits, digitalisation still often takes a back seat as SME owners focus on what may seem like more pressing matters such as business expansion, day-to-day operations, and keeping up a healthy profit and loss; all the while battling rising costs, limited access to funds, and the challenges posed by competition with the Goliaths in their industries, just to name a few.
The irony is that digitalisation helps smaller players make the most of their nimbleness, increase innovation and productivity, and lower expenditure, to take on the Goliaths in their industry.
From sweating the small stuff to big picture thinking
Many business owners and entrepreneurs today start out with a vision to make a real difference to their community, whether by solving day-to-day pain points or enhancing our quality of life.
For Ciara Yeo and Lim Wen Ling, the founders of The Mindful Company, their digitally-native jewellery brand brings their love of modern, well-crafted jewellery together with their mission to inspire wearers while they take on challenges in their personal and work lives.
“We want people to pause, take a moment, and spend more time on the things that matter. Likewise, as a business, we want to focus on achieving our goals and fulfilling our vision.”
What the duo have done is to digitise their business, beginning with their accounting. Doing so has allowed them to automate manual processes such as data entry to focus on the more strategic and creative aspects of their job. By moving their accounting function into the cloud, they now spend less than three to five hours a month on accounts, which is four to five times less than if they were doing it manually on Excel.
From flying blind to seeing the next move
The rise of e-commerce saw the birth of a unique travel concept devised by Anywhr, Asia’s first surprise trips curator that sends customers on personalised trips to less-travelled destinations around the world. This revolutionary way of travelling takes the hassle out of vacations, which explains the business’ rapid growth from 0 to 20 employees in a year.
According to founders Zelia Leong and Felix Tan, their goal of becoming the next travel movement to hit Singapore really took off. However, rapid scaling of the business also meant that they found it difficult to keep up with the transaction volume.
Financial visibility and transparency became critical for them to function day-to-day when their business grew, which was when they decided to turn to Xero as they needed a tool to help them stay on top of transactions and manage business finances. This shift to the cloud allowed them to get rid of manual data entry, saving the team two to three days a month. Time saved was then better used to read, learn and work on improving the platform to benefit their customers.
From starting local to going global
What started off as a simple idea to deliver wholesome snacks to homes and offices, Boxgreen’s service has now penetrated an untapped market for healthy office snack subscriptions. The startup has so far been overwhelmingly successful at conveniently delivering a slice of quirkiness to offices all over Singapore, and reinventing healthier snacking for busy lifestyles. With that success, founders Walter Oh, Andrew Lim, and Wong Weng Fai, have naturally started looking at their potential to go global.
The importance for Singaporean businesses to scale their operations both regionally and internationally has long been documented by news media and business experts, and technology empowers them to do just that regardless of their size and resources.
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By adopting technology services such as Xero to manage their finances, the founders have realised better financial clarity and automation, with access to all their data, anytime, anywhere. As a result, they are better informed to make decisions faster and spot opportunities for growth.
Technology is no longer a good-to-have
When business is booming, not having cash flow can be a major obstacle, hindering opportunities and limiting the ability to grow.
That’s why finding an accounting solution that enables businesses to have full view of the accounts as money goes in and out is ideal, as it allows the entrepreneurs and business owners to see where their business stands financially and allows them to make informed decisions regarding long-term plans.
It is crucial for business to work closely with a trusted accountant who can advise on the financial standing of the business, as this allows SMEs and entrepreneurs to focus on building and developing their business.
Disclosure: This article is sponsored by Xero. Xero is an online accounting solutions provider.