Imagine you’re the owner of a small restaurant, serving traditional local dishes. But technology has radically changed the way you do business. Customers now get recommendations from friends on social media. Once they’ve decided to check out your restaurant, they make a reservation though a mobile app.
When they arrive and are seated, they use electronic menus on a tablet, swiping through various pictures of the items offered, before placing their orders by pressing a few buttons on the screen. And after they’ve finished the fragrant dishes prepared, they make the payment by using their mobile phone.
These are increasingly common scenes in Singapore, and indeed, digitalisation is changing the way businesses operate. Websites, apps, social media, cloud computing, big data, tablets, e-commerce - these technologies are among the emergent trends today that will change the way we do business in future, and companies and consumers have to be prepared to embrace it.
Singapore is on course to becoming a digital nation. The city-state topped the Networked Readiness Index for two consecutive years in 2015 and 2016, according to World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Information Technology Report 2016 Ranking1. The e-commerce market in Singapore is expected to be worth US$5.4 billion (S$7.46 billion) by 2025, according to a 2016 report by Temasek and Google2.
Local SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises), in particular, can benefit from digitalisation, automation, and innovation.
Source: Lek Lim Nonya Cake Confectionery (www.kuehkueh.com.sg)
SMEs in the food and beverage sector have been investing in technology to draw a growing tech-savvy crowd. For example, Lek Lim Nonya Cake Confectionary in Bedok North developed an e-commerce website to sell its products online, distinguishing itself from other heartland shops. The confectionary made sure it had a user-friendly interface; for example, customers could easily change their orders before paying, instead of having to begin all over again if they have second thoughts or make a mistake.
The website also enables buyers to save and edit previous orders, and place repeat orders. To encourage customers to order online, if they register as a member, the store gives them one point for every dollar spent at the e-shop, which can be exchanged for discounts. The investment in digitisation has paid off. Since 2012, there’s been a 15% increase in repeat orders from online customers, with online orders making up 30% of the company’s annual revenue.
Another SME that’s enabling the digitalisation of F&B outlets is TabSquare. It provides tablet-based food ordering, billing and payment services for restaurants. TabSquare has provided many operational benefits for restaurants; for example, the ordering process is faster, since orders are received directly in the kitchen. The in-built ordering system helps reduce mistakes made when ordering and makes payment more efficient, leaving service staff free to concentrate on providing good service.
Currently, TabSquare has over 100 clients in Singapore such as Wala Wala, IndoChili, and Japan Foods Holding. They’ve managed to help restaurants reduce wait times and achieve higher revenues.
It’s not only the food industry which benefits from digitalisation. In recent years, the Singapore government has announced various measures to spur the overall digitalisation of Singapore businesses. For example, in Budget 2016, the government announced that it would provide a grant to roll-out or scale up automation projects – up to 50% of qualifying project cost, capped at $1 million.
Companies, especially SMEs, can also apply to SPRING’s Capability Development Grant, which supports a wide range of innovation activities, including digitalisation and automation of business processes. The grant supported 1,200 projects in 2015, and the government will be enhancing it by approximately $600 million over the next three years, as announced in Budget 2015.
With this, companies can enjoy the enhanced funding support level of up to 70% of qualifying project costs up till 31 March 2018. Moreover, the application process for projects below $30,000 has been simplified to make it more accessible to companies.
Digitalisation is driving tremendous changes in the economy and the way we do business, and companies are seeing shifts in their operational models. Advances in technology means that businesses have to keep up with the changes and embrace a spirit of change. The government has introduced many schemes that suit businesses at different levels to encourage investments in technology.
Continued attention to innovation and productivity will also remain essential for businesses, come 2017.
The government will be presenting its Budget for the coming fiscal year in 20 February. Watch out for announcements in the coming Budget to see what’s in store!
1 https://www.tech.gov.sg/en/About-Us/Facts-and-figures/Singapore-ranking-in-infocomm#infocomm1; and http://www3.weforum.org/docs/GITR2016/WEF_GITR_Full_Report.pdf
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