SME Featured Southeast Asia

Zilingo launches new solution in PH for digitization of SMEs’ distribution

Manila, Philippines – B2B tech platform Zilingo which offers commerce solutions to businesses and retailers, has launched Zilingo Digitize in the Philippines. The new solution is a cloud-based SaaS to help brands & distributors digitize their distribution needs. 

Zilingo Digitize adds to the line of product offerings of the tech platform which includes, among others, Zilingo Trade, which aims to bring a seamless process in the bulk-buying and -selling of ready-made (RMG) and made-to-order (MTO) goods as well as Zilingo Factory, an MES software for the garment industry that helps factories increase efficiency and reduce waste.

Shiela Mauricio, the platform’s country manager in the Philippines, said that Zilingo is reimagining the entire supply chain and is aggregating all parties within the same platform by offering services and software that can help businesses do better. 

“This has been the brand’s focus since day one,” Mauricio said.

Meanwhile, Dhruv Kapoor, the co-founder & CTPO of Zilingo, said that the company remains committed to bringing new tools, technology, and innovation that will unleash the entrepreneurial spirit in the Philippines, boost exports from the country and build greater supply chain transparency to reduce cost and wastage.

“With the internet and technology becoming an integral part of our lives, we see a massive opportunity to empower MSMEs across the country and Zilingo is dedicated to being a catalyst for progress and innovation,” said Kapoor. 

The platform further comments that with its direct access to raw material suppliers, manufacturers, and brands, it is able to offer MSMEs the means to achieve product quality, quantity, and availability, and better pricing models.

SME Featured Southeast Asia

SHOPLINE launches new campaign as social commerce market soars

Singapore – Due to the pandemic, many merchants have explored the benefits of social commerce features to extend their reach. And with this, the global smart-commerce platform, SHOPLINE, has launched a new month-long campaign that aims to educate and assist SMEs which are considering to enter the emerging social commerce space. 

Titled, ‘Retail Revolution: Three Easy Ways to Succeed in the New Retail’, the campaign will be running from 1 to 30 September 2021. It includes three free webinars for the public on 15, 22, and 29 September 2021 and benefits for both new SHOPLINE merchants and Singapore Retailers Association (SRA) members.

According to SHOPLINE, it has seen a rise in signups of over 46% across Asia and threefold growth in transactions via SHOPLINE Live. As consumer appetite increases for a more immediate, social, and engaging form of shopping, SHOPLINE aims to encourage retailers to integrate new kinds of purchase points such as live streaming into their existing channels. As consumers embrace ‘shoppertainment’ to bridge the omnichannel retail gap, SHOPLINE Live’s latest enhancements will enable merchants to conveniently sell and receive orders while live streaming and interact with consumers through live streaming tools such as live bidding, lucky draws, and concurrently sell their products on Facebook without leaving the stream.

Beyond live streaming, SHOPLINE also seeks to encourage retailers to invest resources in useful technology to help manage their multichannel approach to capture more sales and optimize their operations via logistics and digital marketing tools. For example, the recently upgraded digital marketing tool – Smart Ads System – is also Singapore’s first combination of AI with an e-commerce platform designed to manage Facebook Ads and Google Shopping Ads. Meanwhile, ONESHIP will be providing merchants with a centralized web-based shipping solution that would help them save time, which is a precious commodity for business owners so that they could focus on other aspects of growing their brand.

Jeff Lim, SHOPLINE’s general manager for Singapore, believes that there is no better time than now to introduce social commerce and leverage new solutions and tools to provide satisfying contactless shopping experiences for all.

“It has been a great opportunity to work with SRA, who share our vision — to empower retailers by equipping them with the tools and local ground support they need to succeed in the changing retail landscape,” said Lim.

SHOPLINE said that new merchants who will sign up with the platform this September can get to enjoy the benefit of free delivery for the first 10 orders via ONESHIP and receive cash rebates based on the number of orders they hit in a month. SRA members will also enjoy exclusive benefits including extended subscriptions and SmartAds credits.

Moreover, SHOPLINE’s solutions have been approved by IMDA’s extended Productivity Solutions Grant (PSG) to support eligible SMEs looking to improve their productivity and enhance business processes. From 30 September 2021 until 31 March 2022, eligible companies can get up to 80% of their plan fees covered if they fulfill the PSG eligibility criteria.

SME Featured Southeast Asia

Astro Malaysia empowers SMEs through new ‘Time to Evolve’ campaign

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – Small businesses have been hit hard during the pandemic, which resulted in setbacks and shutdowns. With this, Astro, the satellite television provider in Malaysia, has launched a new campaign called ‘Time to Evolve’, which aims to help SMEs identify their weaknesses and turn their operations around and get back up from the recent downturn. 

‘Time to Evolve’ campaign, which has the tagline ‘Watch, Learn and Evolve’,is part of its efforts in supporting the affected enterprises. It features programs with expert guests from various industries who will share professional insights.

The new campaign includes Astro’s AEC signature ‘Business Talk’, which is returning for the 4th season. This latest installment of the series will see its host Gan Jiang Han and his new partner, renowned financial and current affairs DJ Xiao Ma, hosting together with a new lineup of experts from various industries, helping the SMEs to discover new business opportunities.

The talk show, which will premiere on 16 August 2021 at 9:30 pm MYT on Astro AEC (HD CH306) and Astro GO, will be tackling different challenging business topics, from navigating economic uncertainty to seizing opportunities amid adversity. It will also be providing all-around solutions to SMEs, allowing the viewers to submit questions related to the topic of the show via QR code scan. The experts will then answer the relevant questions via Facebook Live on Hotspot FB page the day after the show’s premiere.

Furthermore, the campaign includes a series of exciting business programs and activities for SMEs, including ‘Astro Equipped to Evolve Webinar’, a virtual seminar by experts in various aspects to support SMEs and furnish them with the right tools, techniques, and knowledge in adapting to the uncertain economic climate. Under the ecosystem, there will also be free online courses catering to different business sectors.

Siah Ping Wong, Astro’s vice president for Chinese customer business, said that with the pandemic going on for more than a year and the nation undergoing a prolonged lockdown, transformation is inevitable especially for the SMEs. 

“We hope to be able to help these enterprises in observing, learning, and evolving from the crisis in order to revive their businesses,” said Wong.

The campaign is also launching Astro’s brand new series ‘Small Business Big Ideas’, which provides microentrepreneurs with more knowledge, from the fundamental skills and information such as how to register for their businesses to the allocation of shares and more. And lastly, viewers can expect to see the return of ‘SME Great Helper 2.0’, a reality show showcasing mentors who are ready to give advice and help SMEs turn their businesses around.

Astro said that they have always been committed to assisting SMEs with their previous initiatives, and they were able to equip business owners with free advertising packages to gain optimal exposure for business growth.

SME Featured Southeast Asia

AXA Singapore unveils new employee benefits solution for SMEs, start-ups

Singapore – With employee well-being a key factor in determining an organization’s success, AXA Insurance has decided to launch its new ‘Better Me Business’, an employee benefits solution designed for SMEs and start-ups in Singapore.

The new ‘Better Me Business’, which is part of the company’s enhanced #BetterMe employee benefits proposition for businesses of all sizes and needs, features a wide range of plan and rider options that cater to different coverage needs and budgets. It also goes beyond medical benefits to include supplementary health and wellness services that can help boost employee satisfaction and productivity, and it does not come with any minimum group size requirement. 

Firstly, companies and their employees will get comprehensive coverage without the constraints of sub-limits, allowing them to have greater certainty about how much of their medical bills will be covered if they have to undergo major or minor medical procedures.

Another employee benefit is a range of health and wellness services that are more often associated with larger companies, such as a chronic disease management program, mental support through in-person or virtual consultations, and fitness and wellness experiences at exclusive rates, as well as discounted health screening packages.

Meanwhile, employees can also get an added layer of personalization with the option to enhance their coverage according to their needs, such as critical illness insurance, personal accident insurance, and general practitioner coverage, as well as specialist coverage, and dental coverage.

And lastly, the solution offers both the company and employee the convenience of accessing policy information and services through a one-stop HR portal and MyAXA app. They will be able to easily track claims and generate reports on the platform, which helps to reduce administrative work and increase efficiency.

Julien Callard, AXA Insurance’s managing director for Retail and Health, shared that they want to better serve enterprises by offering a comprehensive employee benefits solution which not only takes care of their employees’ health protection needs for peace of mind, but that can also help improve their physical and mental well-being. 

“Companies who invest in the well-being of their employees can benefit from improved productivity and performance, and importantly build a stronger and more resilient workforce,” said Callard.

SME Featured South Asia

IFC announces US$126m equity investment in India’s Federal Bank Limited to finance SMEs, ‘green’ recovery

New Delhi, India – The global development institution that focuses on the private sector in developing countries, International Finance Corporation (IFC), and two investment funds managed by IFC Asset Management Company – IFC Financial Institutions Growth Fund and IFC Emerging Asia Fund – have made a US$126m (₹916 crores) equity investment in Federal Bank Limited (FBL), India’s private sector bank.

The investment aims to increase financing for climate-friendly projects and small businesses, helping accelerate the country’s economic recovery from the pandemic. Through this, FBL will be expanding its MSME and climate finance portfolios, which are keys to growth opportunities.

Federal Bank’s CEO and Managing Director, Shyam Srinivasan, shared that after the bank’s board approved the issuance of shares to the IFC group to an extent of 4.99% of the bank’s paid-up capital, IFC has become a significant shareholder of the bank. 

“The addition of this marquee name to the list of our prominent shareholders reinforces the trust and confidence reposed by the IFC group on the bank and its management. The infusion of quality capital further strengthens Tier 1 and overall CAR of the bank,” said Srinivasan.

Meanwhile, Roshika Singh, IFC’s acting country manager for India, commented that the move is in line with IFC’s strategy to support green growth by spurring investments, seizing the opportunities to help the country.

“The investment is also expected to create tens of thousands of jobs, with MSMEs gaining access to much-needed financing, which will also help ensure an inclusive recovery,” said Singh.

IFC has also announced that the investment marks the institution’s first in India aligned with the Greening Equity Approach, which will enable FBL to reduce its exposure to coal and increase its climate lending. 

With Federal Bank’s focus on ESG, IFC will also be consulting with the bank on developing a new Environmental and Social Management System (ESMS) that will be applied to its entire portfolio. To further strengthen FBL’s environmental and social sustainability (E&S) capacity, IFC will also be implementing an E&S technical advisory program. 

In addition, under the World Bank Group (WBG) Climate Change Action Plan, IFC will be putting climate action at the heart of its development work. The institution will also be working to align investments with the goals of the Paris Agreement, intensifying support to help clients decarbonize, and deploying standards and tools to catalyze private sector financing for the climate.

SME Featured APAC

SaaS banking startup Mambu rolls out new all-digital product for SME lenders

Singapore – SaaS cloud banking platform Mambu, which has presence in Singapore and Australia, has just recently launched a fully flexible digital solution for SME lenders that aims to cut costs and time to market.

Mambu provides banks and fintechs with loan management technology and access to an ecosystem of partners such as web-based identity authentication, credit checks, and loan origination. These partners are vital to lenders wanting to offer speedy loan approvals which has proven to be a key competitive advantage.

The new SME lending solution by Mambu is designed for fast new product launches and offers flexibility in order to quickly adapt to changes. It offers a variety of options to adjust loan conditions in order to support borrowers that are in financial difficulties. This flexibility helps clients to better serve SME companies and to release financial burdens during pandemic times.

According to the International Finance Corporation (IFC), it is estimated that there is an unmet financing need of US$5.2T every year across 65 million firms or 40% of formal MSMEs globally. At the same time, there is more pressure on SME lenders to deliver low-risk decisions quickly via a fully digital customer experience.

Elliott Limb, Mambu’s chief customer officer, shared that whether it is starting a new company or growing an existing one, there’s never been a bigger requirement for SME lenders to offer the services their customers need. 

“With Mambu’s composable approach, we provide an agile way for our clients to build and shape new financial services around the businesses they want to help,” said Limb.

SME Featured Southeast Asia

Transport tech startup Transporta offers system free trial to SME truckers

Jakarta, Indonesia – In its effort to digitize the logistics industry, Transporta, the Indonesian-based transport management system startup, has launched a free trial of its transport management system (TMS) for SMEs in the logistics sector.

Transporta’s solutions give a bird’s eye-view of logistics operations through a centralized cloud platform, which enables truckers to maximize the speed of their daily operations and utilize resources such as routes, truck space, and petrol usage.

The initiative aims to assist SME truckers, with 20 or fewer trucks in their fleets, to swiftly adapt to the country’s digital migration and rise in e-commerce activity, allowing them to use the firm’s TMS services at no charge for up to 75 trips per month.

According to Transporta, the initiative also seeks to tackle two problems plaguing SMEs’ logistic processes. First is the sudden influx of e-commerce orders from retail customers, which results in SME truckers transporting goods in half-full trucks at a moment’s notice, with empty haul back to origin city and barely any route optimization. And secondly, SME truckers losing out to larger fleets due to the low level of digital adoption and the high cost of logistics solutions.

Emma Hartono, Transporta’s chief operating officer, shared that TMS solutions are expensive, bulky, and more tailored for large-scale fleets, and with this, SME truckers are left in a hard place, doing business manually with Excel. 

“Transporta is here to offer help to these SMEs. Our long-term vision is to change highly-manual traditional logistics processes via digitalization, while emphasizing building a community and digital footprint of truckers,” said Emma.

Apart from its TMS solution, Transporta also offers a telemetry system to track each truck in every fleet, providing accurate and updated location information for all assets and building a digital footprint for SME truckers. A key upcoming feature is a community platform to share payload information among SME truckers, which connects to WhatsApp group chats, allowing SMEs to quickly combine their respective fleets and maximize routes to bid on and fulfill larger orders.

Transporta has also announced that it will be debuting its cost-efficient TMS in August, with plans to onboard 10,000 trucking companies over the next three years.

SME Featured Southeast Asia

SG-based Opal to offer short-term financing solutions to SMEs via Funding Societies tie-up

Singapore – Two financial services platforms dedicated to SMEs in Asia – Opal and Funding Societies – have partnered to offer Opal’s ecosystem of clients and partners in Singapore a range of financing solutions. Funding Societies specializes in providing short-term financing to SMEs, and needless to say that this will be one of the main offerings of the partnership. 

Opal is currently operating solely in Singapore and it aims to be the unified account for all of SMEs’ payments and loans in the country. It eyes to help businesses accelerate growth by simplifying cross-border payments, maximizing cost savings, and providing easier and cheaper access to trade financing & credit facilities.

Under the partnership with Funding Societies, Opal will offer Funding Societies’ range of solutions such as micro loans, term loans, and invoice financing, at a relatively lower rate and a quicker processing time. Further, to reduce the financial burden on SMEs in Singapore, Opal and Funding Societies will reduce processing fees on all disbursals up to 50% of the loan amount and offer a full waiver of the facility fee on all line products. This is alongside Opal’s main solutions of cross-border money transfer and multi-currency accounts.

Lim Ming Wang, co-founder of Opal, refers to a study by Singapore’s MAS where growth of businesses in the Lion City is forecast to be robust but uneven in 2021. 

“As a company that is focused on SMEs in Singapore, we want to be able to assist businesses at their time of growth who are looking for solutions to strengthen their cash flow,” said Lim. 

Lim adds, “We are excited about this partnership as businesses can now have access to multi-currency management, payments, and financing solutions from a single platform on Opal. As our technology is driven by the interconnectivity of these different financial-business solutions, companies will get even better rates and faster turnaround times.”

Meanwhile, Shrawan Saraogi, head of partnerships and products at Funding Societies, commented, “As a FinTech founded with the mission to uplift economies, we believe in helping SMEs obtain access to financing solutions that are easy and fair. We want to help them by providing the impetus for growth. I believe this partnership is ideal, as we would be able to support Opal’s ecosystem of clients and partners with our wide range of growth financing solutions.”

Opal is licensed in Singapore, but has clients and client counterparties in Europe, the US, Israel, and the rest of SEA.

SME Featured Southeast Asia

World Bank’s IFC partners with Vietnam’s SeABank to expand lending for SMEs

Hanoi, Vietnam – In response to the pandemic and its economic effects, International Finance Corporation (IFC), the sister organization of the World Bank focused on the private sector in emerging markets, has partnered with Vietnam’s international trade financing company, Southeast Asia Commercial Joint Stock Bank (SeABank), extending a US$40m loan to support businesses in Vietnam make a resilient recovery.

In the first phase of an up to US$150m financing package, the partnership aims to expand lending to local SMEs, especially women-owned businesses (WSMEs), increase access to climate finance, and boost international trade opportunities. 

The funding package will comprise up to US$80m from IFC’s own account and $50m to be mobilized from international lenders, in addition to a US$20m trade finance line. While the investment aims to increase SeABank’s SME lending portfolio, at least US$20m will be earmarked for WSMEs, with support from the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi). 

With a strategy to expand its reach to WSMEs, IFC’s funding will help the bank triple its current WSME lending, accounting for about 25% of its total SME portfolio by 2024. IFC will also be advising the bank to develop a banking on women strategy to help bridge the US$4.9b financing gap of WSMEs, accounting for more than one-fifth of the SME financing gap in the country. The bank will further support green building and energy efficiency projects, which can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

SeABank’s General Director Le Thu Thuy noted that IFC’s long-term financing and technical advice will enable SeABank to focus on two strategic segments—WSMEs and climate financing—and position itself as a bank of choice for women-owned businesses and climate-friendly projects over the next five years.

“Given the pandemic, IFC’s timely investment also allows us to extend support to more businesses at a critical time while contributing to the stability of Vietnam’s overall financial market,” said Thuy.

Meanwhile, Kyle Kelhofer, the country manager of IFC Vietnam, Cambodia, and Lao PDR, shared that IFC’s new partnership with SeABank reaffirms IFC’s commitment to supporting the continued development of a strong financial sector in Vietnam.

“Our investment in SeABank reiterates our confidence in the bank and its strategic direction to increase financing for SMEs and climate investments, furthering green and inclusive growth, and helping Vietnam build back better from the COVID pandemic,” said Kelhofer.

Furthermore, IFC will be helping SeABank to support the country’s climate finance needs with US$30m to be allocated for climate-friendly projects. IFC’s support will also be expected to help SeABank build a US$60m climate-finance portfolio by 2024.

IFC’s US$20m trade guarantee line under its Global Trade Finance Program (GTFP) will boost SeABank’s capacity to provide financing for importers and exporters to minimize trade disruption given the ongoing pandemic. Participation in GTFP will enable SeABank to join a network of more than 500 bank partners in nearly 100 emerging-market countries.

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.