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SME Featured Southeast Asia

A familiar feature this pandemic: SG-based SME of traditional Chinese meds goes digital

Singapore – E-commerce has now hit its pivotal growth: consumers now can’t imagine life without it, and merchants and brands have moved past seeing it as a vanity, and now takes space in their main business strategies. 

If there’s an entity that has benefitted the most in this new economic change, it would be the SMEs. SMEs, with their nimble nature, have always had fast growth as its advantage, and the opportunity to digitize has recently been the sure-shot route to growth.

Innity, the digital media transformation partner in Asia, has shared one of the recent digitization initiatives it has developed for one particular SME in the area of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) – China Tangshan in Singapore – a manufacturer of the said pharmaceutical products in the country since 1977.

China Tangshan
China Tangshan’s e-commerce website, developed in partnership with Innity

China Tangshan was founded by Chong Kee Fee, who served many years as an apprentice and operations supervisor at a traditional(TCM) factory in Malaysia. Coming into Singapore in the ’70s, he put up the same nature of business with his wife. 

The long-time seller and manufacturer of TCM, which saw its early stages rolling out proprietary formulations under house brands Chankang, Heaven Star, and Tongsha, shared that they have always had limited resources, but have always wanted to expand its distribution network, to reach out to more medical halls and potential sales outlets.

At present, it continues to seek enough manpower, capital, and time to grow its network, and while a digital marketplace was briefly eyed on, it had not been top-of-mind until recently. 

“We considered digitizing our business when the online and social media platform started flourishing. We even made the effort to set up a website ourselves a few years ago. We knew we had to digitize to cater to the changing consumer habits, but it was not our top priority,” shared the company. 

With the effects of the pandemic coming into full circle, hitting the economic health of businesses both big and small, China Tangshan, like others, knew it was the right time to go digital. With this, it soon partnered with Innity to finally see its digitization through, under the digitization support scheme by the country’s Enterprise Singapore. 

China Tangshan

“Prior to the pandemic, the market for TCM products had already changed drastically. The younger generation is less exposed to TCM products which affected the market. Medical halls also closed one by one as operations got on in age and could not find successors. Hence, we faced a stagnant customer base and a dwindling distribution network,” said the company. 

With its new e-commerce, China Tangshan bared that its visibility has increased, now having been able to reach and engage its target audience directly and at scale.

“We also hope to grow a new following especially among millennials,” added the company. 

China Tangshan

Lee King Huat, country head of Innity Singapore, commented, “We were delighted to work with China Tangshan on digitizing their business. With our solutions, we are confident that China Tangshan will be able to extend its reach and expand into regional markets in the future.”

The new website and e-commerce portal of China Tangshan was built out of an integrated e-commerce solution by Innity which includes custom-building the website, product photo-taking, social media marketing, and tracking of sales performance. Innity also took the lead to establish the TCM seller’s suitable payment gateway and the best language to use for its website content.

In the interview between Innity and China Tangshan, it shared that now, having brought its digital footprint down, it aims to target the millennial consumer amid growing its website traffic, and as it further enriches its content on the website and through engaging with the audience through social media.

On recommending SMEs to go digital, China Tangshan said, “A definite yes. Not only is online shopping and social media here to stay, but digital marketing is also much more affordable and cost-effective as compared to traditional marketing. SMEs like ourselves need to digitize to stay relevant.”

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SME Featured Southeast Asia

Globe Business launches fresh SME programs including ₱50k grant to boost digitization

Manila, Philippines – Globe’s enterprise arm Globe Business is launching a new set of programs and initiatives for SMEs, starting off with a Digistore.

The Digistore is supported by the country’s Department of Trade and Industry’s (DTI) Negosyo Center and the DTI Bureau of SME Development, which was developed to boost the sales of partner entrepreneurs through cross-selling on Globe’s digital platforms.

The Digistore will encourage Filipinos to support local MSME brands by buying from the live-selling activities hosted by Globe Business on its Facebook page.

Another one, which is also probably one of the biggest in its recent initiatives, is Globe Business’s search for MSMEs to provide them a grant to help boost their business and expedite their digital transformation. 

Globe is on the lookout for five businesses and said enterprises must have recently been proactive in tapping the power of digital technology to pivot their operations in responding to the pandemic. The telco giant will be giving an SME showcase worth ₱50,000. 

Lastly, Globe is launching a loyalty program for new and existing Globe Business customers called the Globe Business Upstart. The program is designed to empower micro, small and medium business owners through three core pillars: digital leadership, business enablement, and exclusive partnerships. Members will have access to the program starting 5 July when they register for the program.

“Globe Business is a staunch supporter of the MSME sector and is committed to being their partner for success in every way possible,” said the company.

Globe has also launched its ‘Saludo SMEs’ campaign, or which translates to ‘Salute SMEs’ – Globe Business’s annual initiative in recognizing the contribution of MSMEs to sustainable economic development. 

“Every business that has survived and beaten the pandemic odds carries an inspiring story of creativity, grit, and resilience worthy of recognition,” said the telco. 

The campaign was first launched in 2019 to shine a spotlight on SME challenges and successes and inspire other entrepreneurs facing similar struggles. Coming off a troubled 2020, the campaign message feels more poignant and emotionally-charged than ever with the theme – “Through The Changing Times, Tuloy Tayo!” or “Through The Changing Times, we continue forward!”

The campaign was kicked off through a short film depicting the humble entrepreneurial journey such as that of an ice cream vendor. The feature, which was released on its Facebook page, shows values of grit and determination in the middle of the struggles brought by the pandemic and asserts how partnering with Globe Business helps accelerate SMEs’ growth and digitization. 

Globe’s pilot short film for the campaign can be viewed on its Facebook page

“Our MSMEs have gone through their toughest year yet and through our Saludo SMEs initiative, we want to celebrate their resilience and longevity, and encourage them to cultivate a mindset of “Tuloy Tayo” in order to forge ahead with confidence into the future despite the changing times. And they can be assured that Globe Business will continue to be their steadfast partner in uplifting their businesses with innovations through our reliable digital solutions,” said Maridol Ylanan, Globe Business MSME group strategy and marketing head.

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SME Featured Southeast Asia

Digital adoption on the rise among MY small businesses: survey

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – As a result of the disruption caused by the global pandemic, more small businesses in Malaysia have utilized digital technologies in their operations and services, new survey from professional accounting organization CPA Australia shows.

According to the survey, 40% of businesses have begun increasing their focus on online sales in the past 12 months, as well as social media amplification, with over 60% using it to promote their business and 55% using it to communicate with customers.

While most Malaysian small businesses offer customers new digital and mobile payment options, 61.5% still receive 50% or more of their sales in cash, above the APAC survey average of 46.4%.

“The strong connection between technology usage and business growth and the quick returns many Malaysian businesses experience when investing in technology is no doubt helping to drive this uptake. Forty-two per cent reported positive returns from their technology investment last year,” said Jimmy Lai, president of CPA Australia, Malaysia Division.

Despite efforts among the small businesses scene in the country, most find difficulty in financing conditions. Nearly 50% expecting they will face problems accessing finance. These difficulties, plus an uncertain outlook are also expected to impact the solvency of many businesses, with 32% anticipating it will be difficult to repay debts in 2021.

“Small businesses may be offering limited digital and mobile payment options due to a lack of understanding about what’s available or scepticism towards these solutions. This echoes findings from CPA Australia’s 2020 Report on Business FinTech Usage Survey, that showed 31% of businesses with fewer than 50 employees identified a lack of fintech understanding among the board or senior management as a challenge to fintech adoption,” Lai said.

He also added that more can be done to assure business that digital and mobile payment options can provide better customer reach, which should contribute to recovery this year.

COVID-19 is likely to continue creating challenges for Malaysia’s small businesses. Developments such as the spike in infections at the start of the year are balanced by the vaccine roll-out and easing of restrictions. This suggests a more positive picture for 2021, which is supported by the survey results. About 70% of respondents expect their revenue to grow this year, up from 56% last year. Exporting will make an important contribution to growth, with 45% expecting revenue from overseas to grow this year.

“With many small businesses having a strong focus on innovation, e-commerce, good staff and improving business strategy, we are likely to see them recover quickly from COVID-19, especially in the second half of the year. Such a focus also sets them up for long-term growth,” Lai stated.

He added, “However, uncertainty in the economic outlook will remain an impediment to small business recovery. The government should therefore continue to play its enhanced role in supporting this fundamental sector of Malaysia’s economy in the near term.”

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Platforms Featured Southeast Asia

MDEC’s new virtual expo to highlight live streaming for e-commerce

Malaysia – The Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC), Malaysia’s national agency tasked with leading the country’s digitization, has announced its latest virtual expo titled Go-eCommerce Expo, with the main theme “Unleash the power of live streaming e-commerce”.

MDEC said following the success of its nationwide e-Dagang Expo (eDX) in May 2020, which gathered SMEs to discuss the transition from offline to online selling, the new expo aims to continue the agency’s efforts in educating local businesses on why they should be selling online.

The Go-eCommerce Expo, which will take place from December 8 to 10, aims to promote the adoption of live streaming e-commerce as a new sales channel for Malaysian businesses. Another agenda of the expo is to also encourage live selling by imparting the latest skills, techniques, best practices, and platforms in line with it.

Among the speakers are Nur Azre, community and government relations manager from e-commerce enabler ShopLine; Jerry Hang, founder and CEO of MODEN, the first academy in Malaysia in training professional KOLs and a KOL marketing service for brands; as well as MDEC professionals themselves such as Mohd Fazreen bin Maslan and Mohd Zullutfi Abd Razak who are PeDAS heads, MDEC’s one-stop digital learning centers for MSMEs.

With logistics and payments also among the expos’ focus points, MDEC has gathered speakers from e-commerce fulfillment company TresGo Janio Asia, end-to-end electronic payment MPAY, and Visa among others.

MDEC said the event will be concluded with a LIVE Selling Carnival, featuring PeDAS participants, where viewers can purchase locally made products at deals and discounts.

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SME Southeast Asia

Malaysia-based cloud platform Enginemailer partners with MDEC to help digitize local SMEs

Kuala Lumpur – Malaysia-based integrated cloud platform Enginemailer, which focuses on email marketing services has been appointed by government-owned Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) to support its efforts in digitizing SMEs.

The support will mainly be given via the company’s flagship service, email marketing.

MDEC was established by the Malaysian government to propel Malaysia’s digital economy, which it refers to as the ecosystem of public and private sectors who produce, adopt and innovate digital technologies in the name of socio-economic productivity.

Enginemailer offers database management, email marketing, and transactional email services. It has unified features which deliver customer engagement across the entire email marketing and automation spectrum; combining drag-and-drop interfaces, advanced data analytics, and a complete set of integrations APIs.  

Companies who will engage in Enginemailer’s services will be provided with tools to bring their brand messaging into customers’ inboxes through efficient email campaigns.

“Enginemailer is proud to be appointed as an approved  TSP specializing in end-to-end email marketing service for SMEs looking to reach their target audience more effectively,” said CEO and founder Jeffri Shahul Hamid. 

Malaysia announced during its Budget 2020 that its Digitalization Grant will allow SMEs to apply for a 50% matching grant, or a cap of RM 5,000 to adopt any three of the five key digitalization areas delivered by approved Technology Service Providers (TSP). 

Jeffri cites Statista study that global email users in 2019 are estimated to reach 4.3 billion by 2023, a 400 million increase from 2019.