SME Featured Southeast Asia

Enterprise Singapore, Lazada launches anew ‘E-commerce Booster Package’ for SMEs

Singapore – Enterprise Singapore (ESG), the statutory board under the Ministry of Trade and Industry in Singapore, has partnered anew with e-commerce platform Lazada to reintroduce its ‘E-commerce Booster Package’, an initiative that encourages local SMEs and brands to shift to digital.

The ‘E-commerce Booster Package’, which was initially rolled out last year, has been relaunched by ESG on 16 May, with the aim to help retail businesses affected by the pandemic to diversify their revenue channels and defray business costs of going online.

Through the new partnership, Lazada will be putting together three specially curated packages, which are basic, standard, and premium, offering different value propositions to cater to different merchant appetites. The packages will help boost businesses across areas of content creation and store decoration, onboarding and incubation, as well as an advance training class, and marketing credits, among others. Each package is designed to eliminate barriers to selling online. 

Availing the package, retailers can enjoy an 80% subsidy off qualifying costs, up to S$8,000. In addition to the assistance on content and creative marketing efforts of brands, the onboarding packages will also come with marketing and shipping credits, and a dedicated account manager. 

Furthermore, under the ‘Premium’ package, valued at S$28,890, qualifying retailers only need to pay S$2,000 after the subsidies, which amounts to 93% in savings.

The deadline for interested parties to apply for the ‘E-commerce Booster Package’ via Lazada is 16 November 2021.

Enterprise Singapore’s Assistant Chief Executive Officer Dilys Boey commented that they are heartened by the support shown by industry players like Lazada who have continued to work with ESG to help retailers accelerate their move to acquire more customers online. 

“With the support of our E-Commerce Booster Package, we hope to lower the barriers for retailers to build new digital capabilities, like digital marketing or product positioning, which will not only help sustain operations in the immediate term but also strengthen their competitiveness beyond the pandemic,” said Boey.

Meanwhile, James Chang, the CEO of Lazada Singapore, said that it is part of Lazada’s mission to empower retailers and transform them for the future – as e-commerce increasingly becomes part and parcel of the way to shop, it will be an avenue that retailers cannot ignore. 

“If retailers fail, e-commerce also fails. We want to extend our hand and do our part to see merchants through this period where the pandemic is ravaging many industries, especially retail,” said Chang.

In May this year, Lazada has also announced its partnership with Great Singapore Sale (GSS), offering benefits including three months 0% commission for new LazMall sellers, as well as a free live streaming slot on the platform, exclusively for members of the Singapore Retailers Association (SRA) who take part in GSS.

SME Featured APAC

Small businesses in APAC bullish on growth this 2021: report

Singapore – Despite a tough year for small and medium-sized businesses in the year of the pandemic, SMEs in APAC are showing higher confidence that enterprise will slowly come back on its feet this 2021, new report by CPA Australia showed. 

A survey record low of 46.2 percent of small businesses in the region grew in 2020, down from 65.8 percent in 2019. Further reflecting the challenging environment, 31.3 percent of businesses shrank last year, more than double the 14.5 percent that shrank in 2019.

This year, the survey shows that small business confidence is beginning to return, with 60.8 percent expecting to grow this year, which is noticeably higher than the 46.2 percent that grew last year.

However, for most businesses, it won’t be an immediate return to their pre-COVID-19 level. Only 14.5 percent have already returned to their pre-pandemic levels, while 58.4 percent expect to return to their pre-pandemic levels over the next two years. 

According to the study, optimism is most apparent in India, where a significant 86.7 percent of small businesses expect to grow this year, up solidly from 2020. Meanwhile, Hong Kong’s small businesses is the least optimistic, where only 21.2 percent expect to grow, with 49 percent expect to shrink or shut down this year. 

The optimism is chalked up to the expected job creation by small businesses. About 36.1 percent of the region’s small businesses expect to add employees this year.

The poor growth that resulted in 2020 was reflected in higher job losses in the sector, where businesses resorted to retrenchments and downsizing amid the halted operations brought by the lockdowns and closure of borders. In 2020, 14.7 percent of small businesses reduced employee numbers, compared with 6.7 percent in 2019. However, job losses were lower than expected because many governments in the region introduced wage subsidy schemes, like Australia’s JobKeeper, Singapore’s Jobs Support Scheme, and Hong Kong’s Employment Support Scheme.

The report said that innovation along with job creation is what will spur the recovery of businesses. The study saw that younger businesses and businesses from developing markets are more likely to be innovative. This year, the percentage of businesses that are expected to innovate is down slightly from expectations for last year – 23 percent will innovate in 2021 compared to 25.8 percent in 2020. In India, the large jump in the percentage of businesses that will innovate reflects well on its small business sector and government policies encouraging innovation.

What the report found that will stimulate growth the most are five things: selling online, innovating, improving business strategy, investing in technology, and improving customer satisfaction.

Due to limited physical activity and in-person engagements, the period of the pandemic saw small businesses increasing their adoption of technology and finally digitizing their operations. In 2020, 57.9 percent of businesses received more than 10 percent of revenue from online sales, up from 51 percent in 2019. 

SME Featured Southeast Asia

Huawei Malaysia inks partnership with Vita Media to bolster SME digitalization

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – Cloud service provider Huawei Technologies in Malaysia has signed a Memorandum of Collaboration (MoC) with marketing agency Vita Media, to accelerate digitalization among small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the country.

At the center of the partnership is the aim to boost Vita Media’s information review hub, ‘Askpert’, and Huawei will be providing the needed infrastructure to improve the platform. The marketing agency will be carrying out business-to-business (B2B) collaborations in order to get SMEs to take full advantage of ‘Askpert’ in their business transactions.

Through ‘Askpert’, consumers are able to have more access to transparent and accurate information, enabling them to make more informed purchasing decisions by referring to other users’ comments and personal reviews. On the merchant side meanwhile, the review hub will be able to help them address users’ voices through their personal verdict of products and services. 

Vita Media’s CEO Kiro Tan said, “We are grateful to Huawei Cloud for their commitment to bringing affordable, effective, and reliable cloud services through technological innovation. We firmly believe that with the availability of a platform such as ASKPERT, combined with Huawei Cloud’s expertise, we will be able to improve the awareness among SMEs on the latest digital trends, thereby expanding the range of market scopes.”

Meanwhile, Huawei Malaysia’s Cloud and AI Business Group’s vice president Chee Siong Lim thanked Vita Media for choosing Huawei Cloud as its business and industry partner and reiterated the need for businesses, especially SMEs which are more vulnerable to the negative effects of COVID-19, to upskill digitally and adopt technology to give them a competitive advantage in today’s world.

“Huawei remains committed to driving digital growth among SMEs for the benefit of both businesses and consumers while supporting the Malaysian government’s vision to digitally transform the sector. This collaboration with Vita Media will leverage Huawei’s technology to improve accessibility to infotainment content and in doing so, enrich consumers’ lives,” said Lim.

Vita Media has also announced the upcoming launch of its new ‘live broadcast plus e-commerce’, which will be hosted on Huawei Cloud, with the aim to offer interesting live sales content in three languages and guarantees the lowest price for a three-hour broadcast limit throughout the year.

SME Featured ANZ

Crazy Domains addresses the challenges NZ SMBs face in new campaign

New Zealand – Web solutions company Crazy Domains has launched a multi-channel campaign called ‘Your Business is Better Online’, a series of ads that depict the harsh and vulgar reality of running a business offline.

The campaign aims to showcase the challenges faced by New Zealand small and midsize businesses (SMBs) when doing business in the ‘real world’. Through the series of gritty, humorous, and honest ads, the company believes that it will greatly impact the decisions of entrepreneurs to go digital.

According to Crazy Domains, despite several opportunities for digital adoption, about 37% of SMBs in New Zealand do not have an online presence, and 53% agreed they need more support when it comes to establishing one.

Mark Evans, international CEO of Newfold Digital and the owner of Crazy Domains, shared that 2020 forced SMBs owners to rethink their strategy and accelerate their digital transformation plans, regardless of whether they’re equipped for it or not.

“Businesses are finding new ways to make the most out of their web presence. And a new website or website improvements are proving to be efficient and affordable options to adapt to the aftermath of COVID-19,” said Evans.

Furthermore, the digital campaign will also be accompanied by two commercial videos, which will be running on Australia’s Metro TV, Digital TV, and billboards.

SME Featured ANZ

Profits fall for New Zealand SMEs in first quarter of 2021

New Zealand – For the first months of 2021, small and medium enterprises in New Zealand have reported a decline in their profitability with 36% stating a downturn, according to the latest business monitor by professional services MYOB. 

The statistics reflect the three months prior to March 2021, with 12% of those surveyed admitting profits had reduced by ‘a lot’, while still a significant percent – 20% – have reported that profitability has also improved since the start of 2021.

Despite this, SMEs in the region are showing quite the optimism with over one in five or 22% expecting an improvement in profitability onto the coming quarter. This is in line with New Zealand SMEs having a similar sentiment on revenues. 

The same report showed that more than a quarter or 27% of SMEs in the country are forecasting a slight increase in revenue over the next 12 months despite the unpredictable year when the pandemic first emerged. 

After a number of lockdowns, SMEs based in Auckland have seen the most significant impact on their bottom line over a 12-month period to March 2021, with 44% of SME operators in the country’s largest center reporting a fall in revenue. In comparison, businesses in Christchurch fared better than the national average, with 35% reporting reduced revenue over this time, while nearly half or 48% of Wellington-based SMEs said their revenue had remained the same and 38% saw income fall.

Meanwhile, a big percentage of those surveyed – 41% – expect to generate the same level of revenue across the next 12 months, while 25% expect their income to fall.

Current statistics are an increase in positive sentiment where in last year’s report, 40% of SME operators expected their revenue to be down in 12 months’ time, with 21% predicting their revenue would increase.

MYOB SME Senior Sales Manager Krissy Sadler-Bridge said that overall, findings are a solid turnaround for “hard-working” SMEs. Considering the past 12 months when the SMEs had to endure the pandemic blow, Sadler-Bridge believes local business owners should be congratulated for not just hanging on but also finding hard-won opportunities amid some of the most challenging trading conditions the times have seen. 

On profitability meanwhile, she commented, “When a business makes a profit, they may have the funds to develop their business further, hire more employees or increase employee benefits, or for some SME-owners, pay themselves a solid wage – making profitability a key measure of progress for the sector.”

SME Featured Southeast Asia

PH’s NextPay bags US$125K funding for scaling operations among local MSMEs

Manila, Philippines – NextPay, a Philippine-based fintech startup, has secured a US$125K investment funding from startup accelerator Y Combinator, which will be used to expand NextPay’s services further and address the growing problem of financially-underserved businesses in the Philippines. 

Through the investment, NextPay founders aim to leverage their previous experience working in ‘unicorn’ companies to expand their line of digital banking services. Their plans include new digital solutions for payments, credit, and personal cash management.

“Our goal is to empower smaller businesses with a spectrum of banking services that were previously unavailable to them because of the steep requirements and high fees that are typically aimed at larger, more developed companies that can afford them. This funding round from Y Combinator allows us to scale even faster to bring digital financial services closer to MSMEs,” said Don Pansacola, CEO and co-founder at NextPay.

The platform allows small businesses to have the same financial capabilities as large banks, which gives growing companies access to affordable financial services such as digital invoicing, cash management, and batch payments to any bank or e-wallet in the Philippines.

Furthermore, the startup has positioned itself to enable more businesses, entrepreneurs, and freelancers to centralize all their financial requirements through one easy-to-use, affordable, and inclusive platform. 

“We plan to introduce more payment acceptance methods, virtual credit cards, and other digital solutions that enable businesses to manage their cash flow and alleviate the bottlenecks of the Philippine financial landscape. We will also partner with human resource and accounting software companies to further streamline the financial operations of a growing company,” Pansacola added.

According to Aldrich Tan, co-founder and chief experience officer at NextPay, the platform aims to give a wider opportunity among small businesses through accessible digital financial services.

“Through our platform, MSMEs can conduct their transactions seamlessly and allow business owners to free up resources and focus on their operations. This optimization and focus are vital in supporting and strengthening the country’s efforts towards economic recovery,” Tan stated.

Since its launch in 2020, NextPay has processed over US$2.5M (₱120M) in digital transactions for more than 100 businesses. Customers of NextPay can enjoy reduced processing times from as much as 3 days to just 30 minutes. 

“NextPay wants to help the Philippines bounce back. We want to enable growing enterprises to maximize their capital, reach more customers, and generate more jobs and opportunities. This then stimulates economic transactions and creates demand for stronger partnerships. It’s a domino effect, but it starts from having a digital platform like NextPay who empowers MSMEs to thrive and do more,” Pansacola concluded.

NextPay is the fifth Filipino startup to have received funding from Y Combinator, with companies including job searching platform Kalibrr, payment platform PayMongo, edtech Avion School, and laboratory software company

SME Featured Southeast Asia

PH online team training platform bags win at ASEAN StartUp Awards

Manila, Philippines –, a local startup dedicated in creating an online platform for team training and onboarding, has won under the category ‘BEST New StartUp’ during the ASEAN StartUp Awards this month.

The startup, which has bested over 20 other startup finalists in Southeast Asia, aims to create a conducive work environment in a remote and virtual set-up, a direct response to the difficulty of welcoming new hires online, continuously training them, and connecting with internal teams.

Founded by Filipino entrepreneur Paul Espinas, aims to make learning among online teams in the long run, accessible, fun, and effective.

“It is crucial for me that what we are doing is, first and foremost, accessible because I know first-hand how difficult access to education is,” Espinas stated.

Currently based in Vietnam, Espinas also added that the platform’s vision is rooted from “a way of giving back and enabling young professionals to continuously ‘move up’ through accessible and relevant training content.”

The award-giving body which is under the Global StartUp Awards, is an annual spotlight in technology, entrepreneurship, and startup industries, recognizing the industry’s greatest development over the last year based on growth, innovation, and impact.

SME Featured Southeast Asia

Mobile-first commerce solutions KADDRA integrates with accounting software XERO

Singapore – Mobile-first commerce solutions for businesses, KADDRA, has announced the completion of its integration with accounting software XERO to provide a fully automated sales-to-accounting flow for SMEs to improve their productivity and have the right tools to scale.

KADDRA provides mobile-first e-commerce and marketing solutions by connecting businesses with their customers through a white label end-to-end platform. It operates under the premise of improving sales processes, marketing reach, and customer service through a subscription based model for native mobile technology catered to SMEs venturing into digitizing their operations. 

According to Quentin Chiarugi, executive chairman and CEO of KADDRA, the integration is part of a larger roadmap the company has slated for software integrations this year.

“It is a crucial step, and it will provide a huge advantage to companies using both our solutions to run their operations. With minimal cost, productivity will dramatically improve from sales to accounting,” Chiarugi stated.

Meanwhile, Will Beattie, CTO & COO of KADDRA, said, “Xero, like KADDRA, is an easy-to-use, plug-and-play solution used by forward-thinking businesses. Their rapid global expansion is proof that back-office operations want to streamline and evolve. With this integration, sales orders can seamlessly be created as invoices in Xero, reducing manual work, data-entry errors and ultimately saving time for the whole operation.” 

Last month, KADDRA has also integrated e-commerce service Shopify in its platform to amplify its stance for business support for SMEs.

SME Featured East Asia

Technology services provider Nexstgo enhances lineup of SME-catered business solutions

Hong Kong – Nexstgo, a Hong Kong-based technology services provider, is enhancing the product lineup of NEXSTMALL BIZ, the provider’s business solution catered to client small and medium enterprises.

Some of the services include one-stop professional IT services, remote conferencing and VPN security systems, together with a wide range of mobile computing products including branded services from tech companies VAIO and AVITA. 

Furthermore, Nexstgo ensures enterprises of any size and industry can find the most suitable software and hardware solutions on NEXSTMALL BIZ, helping businesses maintain the strongest performance under the continuously transforming business environment during the new year.

“Stepping into the new year, the ‘new normal’ commercial environment continues to affect business IT purchasing decisions. In order to help SMEs be successful in their digital transformation and adapt to the new reality of remote working, Nexstgo has enhanced its business solutions available through the NEXSTMALL BIZ platform to provide a more comprehensive technology application strategy focusing on the business and commercial field,” the company explained in a press release.

One of the aspects Nexstgo focuses among these releases is network security among customers and IT consulting services. Nexstgo has launched technological solutions specifically for network security management, including the installation of bank-level encryption software by Norton VPN for customers in business areas that require remote-work with a high level of integrated protection. Some include Targus Docking Station, which supports multiple USB interfaces and screen configurations; Targus Privacy Screen Filter, designed to protect high-value information; and Targus Security Cable Lock that locks the connection end of the transmission line to protect valuable resources on the device.

“As a strategic partner to SMEs, Nexstgo’s elite team also provides customers with professional IT support and technology operation consulting services, helping companies confidently achieve digital transformation and adapt to the ‘new normal’. These supporting services undertaken by the professional specialist team handle inquiries regarding computer products and software systems, and provide product management and technical support,” Nexstgo further stated.

Lastly, Nexstgo provides online and video conference software and hardware, such as NEXSTGO laptop products with dedicated functionality for online meetings equipped with a high-quality Dolby voice system, and artificial intelligence camera lens Huddly-IQ designed for remote video conferencing, and other related activities. 

“The package helps companies of all sizes to deliver excellent customer service, and to keep pace with fast-changing business environments. By taking advantage of these solutions and transforming into an e-commerce business – with the realities of the ‘new normal’ replacing traditional face-to-face service – companies can greatly increase their revenues, productivity and cost management performance,” said Nexstgo. 

Platforms SME Featured ANZ

Aussie-based fintech Thrive aims to raise A$3M for SME waitlist

Melbourne, Australia – Thrive, an AI-powered fintech aimed at small and medium enterprises (SMEs), has announced the initial stages of its crowdfunding, targeting A$3M, on the equity crowdfunding platform Birchal.

The crowdfunding comes after the platform’s interest in launching the Thrive app for its SME waitlist, which has numbered over 7,500 businesses.

According to Thrive’s data, financial admin has been the most disliked activity in running a business and that business owners waste over 42 days a year in managing their financial affairs. This is something that the platform aims to solve by automating banking, accounting tasks, and lending for SMEs. 

Furthermore, Thrive combines a smart business account with value-added services like receipt scanning, invoicing, tax forecasting, payroll, and more. Using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), these tools are designed to run on autopilot, winning back time for busy business owners and making it easy for them to stay in control of their financial destiny.

“We have been running a number of focus groups with small business owners as we put the finishing touches on our product. After we kept getting asked about investment, we decided that we couldn’t think of anything better than to allow our potential customers to become investors in the business as well,” said Michael Nuciforo, co-founder & CEO of Thrive.

Meanwhile, Thrive Co-founder and COO Ben Winford added, “We were really impressed with the Birchal team and platform. We can’t wait to launch our campaign and to get our members behind us. Crowdfunding presents an exciting opportunity to build our brand, grow our member base and build further advocacy for our business.”