Helping SME Owners Thrive

23 July 2018, Mon

By Shukry Rashid

In the first of several dialogues planned, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and Education Chee Hong Tat met U SME (small- and medium-sized enterprises) partners in his capacity as advisor to NTUC U SME.

The event took place on 18 July 2018 at the NTUC Centre and saw over 60 SME owners and representatives from trade associations and chambers (TACs) from the retail, food & beverage (F&B) and food manufacturing sectors.

Dealing with Manpower issues

Most industries in Singapore may be reeling from the shortage of manpower, but the F&B and retail sectors are some of the worst hit.

Business owners have been vocal about this concern. With tight manpower, the bosses also shared that it was hard to send their workers for training.

Mr Chee suggested a shared resource for manpower. Workers in this pool of resource can stand in for businesses that need additional manpower. This resource can be attached to specific sectors or TACs.

He also added that this resource could especially be beneficial as the need for manpower in these sectors depended on festive seasons.

Many business owners agreed with the suggestion, even though plans are only in the initial stages.

Going Cashless

With cashless payment gaining tremendous traction in China, participants of the dialogue also wondered what the Government’s direction was on it. Mr Chee said that cashless payment is an area that the Government supports.

He said: “There are many benefits to consumers and businesses, such as handling and transaction costs that can be brought down.”

Mr Chee said the problem Singapore is facing is that there are too many players for cashless payment with varying standard.

“The direction that we will want to work towards is actually a common standard,” explained Mr Chee.

Such uncommon standards include those imposed by different banks, with several types of equipment.

Another issue with cashless payment is that its total costs must not be more than when using cash payment. He explained: “We can’t move businesses, we can’t move consumers if using cash is still cheaper and faster.”


Mr Chee said that while technology and automation can transform businesses and improve productivity, having technology is a tool and not the end objective.

He cited an example of poor technology adoption in a restaurant where electronic tablets were adopted to reduce manpower when order-taking.

But when a tablet attached to a table was down, orders could not be taken manually and that specific table could not be used.

Mr Chee said: “By taking this very rigid approach and applying technology in a wrong way, the restaurant owner has ended up short-changing themselves. When we think about technology, in the end, it has to make sense.”

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