Helping SMEs in e-commerce and HR

Helping SMEs in e-commerce and HR

SINGAPORE - Smaller firms will soon get help with developing their own e-commerce services or carrying out human resource (HR) activities.

Enterprise development agency Spring Singapore, together with other government bodies, will be creating common platforms in these two areas for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), Minister of State for Trade and Industry Teo Ser Luck said in Parliament yesterday.

This is aimed at allowing SMEs to share resources to lower their costs, and to catch up with the likes of South Korea, China and Japan in the field of online retailing, he added.

Internet sales make up only 3 per cent of total retail sales in Singapore, compared with 12 per cent in South Korea.

The common e-commerce platform, which is meant to be a springboard for Singapore SMEs into online retailing, will allow companies to carry out activities across various online marketplaces, Mr Teo said during the debate on the ministry's budget.

It will include integrated functions for warehousing, managing inventories and fulfilling orders. It hopes to benefit SMEs that want to adopt e-commerce but are unable to afford the initial outlay, Mr Teo said.

He added that SMEs can cut down on the time taken to process and manage orders by up to 45 per cent, due to the streamlined logistics chain.

Spring will also set up a common pool of HR solution providers, which micro enterprises and SMEs can tap for HR systems and services.

SMEs can benefit by outsourcing their administrative HR activities, which will allow them to focus their limited manpower on core functions.

The moves are part of ongoing efforts to encourage collaboration among SMEs, Mr Teo said.

"Collaboration helps our SMEs build track records, pool resources, share best practices and create new business opportunities."

Spring aims to enrol 50 companies in each of the two platforms, which firms will be able to use from April 1.

Besides companies, trade associations and chambers (TACs) are also being encouraged to work together across different industries in areas such as skills upgrading.

While larger TACs have strong secretariat teams, sizeable membership bases and are well- positioned to roll out initiatives to benefit the industry, "there are many smaller TACs that are not able to provide similar services due to resource constraints", Mr Teo said.

He was responding to Nominated MP Thomas Chua, who had asked for more support for TACs. Mr Chua is also the president of the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

To help TACs, industrial landlord JTC will set up a trade association hub to gather different TACs under one roof.

It will be located at JTC's iHUB, which used to be Jurong Town Hall.

"This is where Singapore's early industrialisation policies took shape... We hope that this will serve as inspiration to our local industry, and especially our SMEs, to continue to transform and raise productivity," Mr Teo said.

The facility will help TACs reduce operating costs and optimise resources through the sharing of facilities and amenities.

Larger TACs will be able to provide their smaller counterparts with expertise in secretariat support and organisation needs.

This article was first published on March 10, 2015.
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