In the Hot Seat: Mumpreneurs of Harnes Singapore
Starting a business is challenging, especially if you’re a resource-strapped mum.
According to the Digital Economy Promotion Agency’s (DEPA) Thailand Digital Industry 2020 survey, the Thai digital service industry is projected to hit double-digit growth this year, a significant 10 per cent jump from the past few years. This comes as the number of Thai consumers using e-commerce platforms increased by 35 per cent over the past 12 months, driven by a work-from-home lifestyle during COVID-19 pandemic.
There are currently 3.17 million SMEs in Thailand and they account for 30 per cent of the Thai GDP. To further strengthen the Thai digital economy, it is vital that the ecosystem enables stronger cooperation between the public and private sectors.
As a government agency, DEPA, is responsible for promoting digitalisation and has taken a key role in educating, providing funding and assisting entrepreneurs to get started on digitalisation. The agency provides comprehensive measures, including financial support for technology adoption and implementation, and standardisation of application and intellectual property registration, to make digital transformation more manageable for businesses across all sectors.
However, SMEs still struggle to realise impact on its business. Statistics from the Department of Industry Promotion’s recent survey revealed that 13.74 per cent of SMEs cited technology and innovation development as one of the top challenges they face. This is despite a recent “UOB ASEAN SME Transformation” study showing that 71 percent of SMEs ranked technology investment as their top priority.
This is where the private sector fills the gap.
Support from the private sector has come in many forms,from subsidising technology solutions, creating online ‘marketplaces’ for SMEs to gain insight into the latest solutions available and funding accelerators targeted at supporting SMEs to achieve sustainable growth post-COVID-19.
UOB is among many organisations who play an active role in helping SMEs transform their business. The Smart Business Transformation Programme (SBTP), a collaboration between UOB, The FinLab, depa, the National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA) and the Office of SMEs Promotion (OSMEP), was initiated to match appropriate and innovative technology solutions to the needs of SMEs.
Since the programme’s inception in 2019, there has been almost 600 technology adoptions by SMEs and these include Anymind Group, an agency that offers digital marketing solutions, Zaviago, an e-commerce solution, UOB’s BizSmart, a comprehensive selection of back-end operations solutions.
In bringing together an ecosystem, impact can be felt by both the suppliers of the solution and demand from businesses.
IQLab, an imaging and printing studio, joined the SBTP in 2021 to accelerate its family business’ transformation into a modern technology driven organisation. “For 36 years, my parents documented everything manually,” said Ms Nantanat Chiaramaneetaweesin, IQ Lab’s Business Director. “As a second-generation business owner, I faced a big challenge in transforming my business into a modern one. I know where the problems are, but I struggled to find where to begin, especially in seeking solutions to address these problems.”
Chiaramaneetaweesin’s story is not the only one. Ms Nattakarn Wuttianan, Managing Director of Oklin, a distributor of machines that turn food waste into compost, shared that her challenge was about getting access to the right solution. Oklin’s database was not well managed and the operations and sales teams found it difficult to follow-up with their clients.
Through the programme, IQ Lab was connected with TRCloud, a cloud-based operations solution, and Oklin was matched with Venio, a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool.
“The SBTP helped us shorten the time to find a solution provider that can address our challenge. With the usage of Venio, we have a central database that enables us to manage our clients, schedule follow-ups and have an overview of the sales cycle. This has allowed us to better control our operational flow and provide better service to our customers. ,” said Wuttianan. For IQ Lab, TRCloud helped to revamp their operational processes by digitising their inventory and sales processes, and reducing the number of man days.
Mr Jutiphan Mongkolsuthreet, Chief Executive Officer of Gofive, the parent company of Venio, said, “Through our participation in the programme, Gofive has had the opportunity to meet with prospective customers, both domestic and international.” The company has since seena 20 per cent increase in the number of SMEs adopting its solution in the first year after joining the SBTP.
Similarly, Robolingo, developer of Zwiz AI, an AI chatbot and analytics tools for businesses, also experienced a significant increase in its solution adoption by SMEs within the first year of participating in the programme. Mr Chanakarn Chinchatchawal, CEO, Robolingo, said, “We doubled the number of customers we had by being a technology solution provider under depa and SBTP’s network. Since then, we have had more SMEs reach out to us due to the credibility of the SBTP programme that we participated in.” He added that it was through guidance from both depa and The FinLab, and being able to hear first hand from the SMEs they met in the programme about their needs, that they started offering a free trial for their solution. “We realised that SMEs were more open to take it up once their trial period ends. Wealso learnt to adapt to better cater to different SMEs needs,” said Chinchatchawal.
With mutual growth experienced by both technology solution providers and SMEs, UOB and depa have agreed to continue the cooperation through the SBTP.
“Encouraging SMEs to adopt technology in their businesses is part of driving Thailand towards a digital economy,” said Mr Chatchai Khunpitiluck, Senior Executive Vice President of depa. “Entrepreneurs across industries will become more reliant on technology, enhancing their ability to grow sustainably and boosting the digital economy as a whole.”
Ms Sirinun Jiradilok, SVP Digital Engagement & Fintech Innovation, UOB Thailand, said, “Enabling SMEs to move to digital business platforms is very important, especially in this critical time while COVID-19 continues. Through SBTP, we have observed that SMEs who proactively use digital technology have higher success rate and seize new business opportunities.”
Thai technology solution providers looking for business opportunities or seeking to make themselves known to SMEs can visit www.facebook.com/uob.th or https://thefinlab.com/th/thailand for more information.