For small and medium enterprises (SMEs), the sense of urgency to digitalise has heightened due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, Singapore’s extended circuit breaker which began in April this year, highlighted the necessity of digitalisation.
It was during this period that OCBC Bank began working with partners including Enterprise Singapore, Amazon, Google and Shopee, to create a series of webinars to equip SMEs with the digital know-how needed to transform and thrive in the new normal.
This series of webinars, known as OCBC Virtual SME Campus, began in April 2020 and so far, more than 30 webinars of about 2 hours each have been conducted.
The webinars addressed immediate concerns that SMEs had during the extended circuit breaker, including how to leverage e-commerce and digital marketing. Webinars tailored specifically for hard-hit industries like F&B were also organised to equip them with the digital skills needed to start selling online quickly.
Though the focus on the webinars has been on digitalisation, special webinars on pertinent topics like working capital financing support schemes, and the impact of the COVID-19 Temporary Measures Act, have been conducted. Other sessions have aimed to prepare SMEs for future opportunities, with topics covering the outlook on the ASEAN economies and China, as well as how to strengthen business resilience for the post COVID-19 new normal.
First-time entrepreneur Ms Lim Geok Keng, founder of artisanal Kombucha brand Châteaux, was amongst those who attended the webinars. She incorporated the company in May 2019 and began looking for a shop front to sell her fermented tea drinks at the beginning of this year – then COVID-19 hit. She pivoted her business to an e-commerce business model and began operations in August.
“This is my first business venture and it is a tough operating environment that I’m starting my business in, so any advice that I can get is much appreciated. The OCBC webinar I attended really opened up my horizons. I obtained useful information on grants and services for SMEs, and a better appreciation of the complexity of digital marketing and running a website.
“There were some takeaways that I implemented immediately. Having a digital marketing calendar, for instance, was something that I had not thought of before. It made me think ahead about upcoming occasions and how to tap on them – the teachers’ day promotion that I ran was inspired by this, and it was very well received. Practical tips like this are very helpful to small business owners like myself.”
Ms Christie Chu, head of emerging business and commercial banking cash, OCBC Bank, said, “It is important that we support our business customers in every way that we can, especially in times of stress. A common piece of feedback from our customers, especially the smaller businesses and startups, is that they know that they have to adapt quickly but are unsure of how to do so. The pace of new developments has also been overwhelming leaving some confused about what help is available. That is where OCBC Virtual SME Campus comes in – to fill that knowledge gap and help SMEs bounce back stronger from this crisis.”