The theme was "Navigating the Global Storm", and it resonated with more than 1,700 members of the business community who attended the 11th SME Conference to seek "concrete solutions to tide over the financial crisis".
The conference was organised by the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce & Industry (SCCCI), which is working to strengthen its cooperation with government agencies and to promote the assistance schemes available, said SCCCI President Mr Teo Siong Seng.
Mr Goh (right, with Mr Leo): Many SMEs were keen to find out more about the infocomm-related grants that were available.
In line with this, SCCCI arranged for a Government Pavilion at the conference, combining resources from agencies, like Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA), International Enterprise (IE) Singapore, SPRING Singapore and Workforce Development Agency (WDA) to provide advice and information on the government assistance available for small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
At the IDA booth, one of the assistance schemes highlighted was the SME Infocomm Package (SIP) which provides SMEs with the one-stop convenience of infocomm products and services in a packaged solution. To further encourage SMEs to adopt infocomm during this economic downturn, IDA has enhanced SIP by raising the subsidy cap from $1,000 to $2,000 per SME for two years starting from 1 April 2009, for local SMEs who wish to develop their first website. The enhanced SIP subsidy supports 80 per cent of the costs for website development, monthly broadband subscription, hosting and maintenance for 12 months.
Another area of interest is the Technology Innovation Programme (TIP) in which SMEs are encouraged to use technology to transform and grow their business, enjoying up to 70 per cent funding for innovative infocomm projects. This funding support is valid from 1 Feb 2009 to 31 Jan 2010.
The SME Infocomm Resource Centre (SIRC) is another initiative by IDA to increase infocomm awareness and knowledge among the SMEs and to help them overcome the barriers to ICT adoption. SIRC is primed as a resource where SMEs can learn more about infocomm technology, seek advisory on software and attend seminars and workshops either free-of-charge or at a nominal fee. Currently, there are two SIRCs located at SCCCI and Singapore Polytechnic (SP).
Mr Ong: I want to get my products onto the web so that I can go global.
Many SMEs who approached the IDA booth at the conference were keen to find out more about existing infocomm-related grants such as TIP for projects like Customer Relationship Management or Enterprise Resource Planning, and the Local Enterprise Technical Assistance Scheme for "smaller-scale" projects such as the setting up of websites or e-commerce portals, said Mr Goh Kok Min, Centre Manager for the SP SIRC.
Besides queries on grants, another area of interest amongst many SMEs was how to optimise their websites, for example, in Google rankings, so that they can be easily found by potential customers, said Mr Goh.
Businessmen like Mr Ong Beng Teng, Managing Director of Siang Ho Hotstamping & Trading Co, was at the IDA booth to find out how to go about setting up a website, and the assistance programmes available for this. His company, which specialises in hot stamping, plans to expand into the trading of hot stamping machines. "I want to get my products onto the web so that I can go global," he said.
Establishing a web presence was also the focus of another participant at the conference, Mr Richard Leo, Director of transport operator Astro Express Logistics. He had purchased a packaged solution from DP Bureau under the SIP initiative, and was targeting to get his website up and running by June. "I want to get the information site up first, and then see where to go from there," he said.