Final yr, the Singapore authorities unveiled 4 Budgets amounting to just about S$100 million to assist residents, staff and companies tide over the COVID-19 pandemic.
This unprecedented assist comes because the pandemic engulfs companies within the biggest problem they’ve ever confronted. Many corporations are affected by prolonged closures, inflicting vital income losses as they’re unable to function.
Regardless of this, companies regularly attempt to rise above the challenges and navigate their method by these harsh situations.
This yr, Deputy Prime Minister Mr Heng Swee Keat can be delivering his Funds assertion on 16 February in Parliament.
It’s little doubt that many employers are expectant of this yr’s agenda, however what precisely is on their want record for the upcoming Funds 2021?
Alvin Ea, co-founder and CEO of Haulio
Haulio is within the enterprise of container logistics they usually assist port truckers as a know-how enabler to optimise assets and enhance efficiencies.
Provided that logistics is a vital service, Alvin mentioned that their enterprise hasn’t been too badly impacted. Even in the course of the lockdown, the logistics trade was nonetheless operating.
“Actually, the previous months have seen an unprecedented increase with a lot actions within the port that has even led to congestions, which we anticipate to proceed past Chinese language New Yr for the container freight,” he mentioned.
Fortunately, final yr’s Funds bulletins helped the enterprise quite a bit, particularly since its goal trade gamers are primarily made up of small- and medium-sized truckers.
The largest achieve was the Job Assist Scheme (JSS), which considerably helped the truckers by tiding us (over) when it comes to cashflow because the upstream prospects from the assorted sectors get impacted considerably when it comes to their enterprise volumes.
For Funds 2021, our perception is that the majority would like to see an extra extension of JSS this yr given the uncertainty with the brand new wave (of COVID-19 instances).
– Alvin Ea, co-founder and CEO of Haulio
Moreover, because the trade is usually supported by international drivers, he mentioned that it might be nice if the international employee quota for the logistics/haulage sector might be reviewed.
“Ideally, it ought to sit below a separate class as an alternative of the companies sector as a result of nature of the enterprise and the upper problem in buying native staff, as in comparison with different industries in the identical sector,” he prompt.
He additionally expects the manpower crunch in Singapore to proceed for the yr forward. Subsequently, he hopes that the federal government will allocate extra funding for coaching, in addition to the driving of digitalisation for logistics.
“The typical age of native drivers is at 50 years outdated. The shortage of native drivers is a significant component, and our view is to reposition the position of the container truck driver by empowering them to do extra by know-how,” he added.
On that be aware, he additionally hopes to see extra financial and non-monetary early assist to push for digitalisation amongst SMEs.
“As a logistics tech startup, now we have seen the COVID-19 pandemic accelerating the adoption of know-how. For instance, cheque funds have decreased significantly, (as many) transfer in direction of digital choices like PayNow (as an alternative),” mentioned Alvin.
“We hope to see digitalisation being pushed in areas equivalent to fleet administration as properly.”
Rishabh Singhvi, co-founder of WhyQ
In keeping with homegrown hawker meals supply platform WhyQ, it acquired “particular permission” from the Nationwide Setting Company (NEA) to function at hawker centres when dine-in was banned in Singapore.
“At one level, we had been producing over 80 per cent of some of our hawker companions’ every day gross sales,” mentioned Rishabh.
With such “excessive demand” in the course of the pandemic, it even needed to double its supply courier and hawker captain fleet from 500 to 1,000.
Due to this surge, WhyQ didn’t should resort to retrench staff or impose wage freezes. The JSS offered WhyQ with wage assist to assist them retain, and even develop, their crew.
In addition they took benefit of the SG Traineeship programme to rent six trainees.
As a rising startup, WhyQ has needed to hold our operations nimble and value buildings low. Therefore, we might not all the time have the assets to develop our crew quickly at the same time as we develop.
With the SG United Traineeship programme, we’re capable of welcome new trainees to assist us with our growth plans. It has been a win-win for us and the trainees, the place we offer them alternatives to discover a profession within the F&B logistics trade, whereas they every convey priceless skillsets from their respective fields to contribute as priceless members of our groups.
– Rishabh Singhvi, co-founder of WhyQ
For Funds 2021, Rishabh hopes to see continued assist for small, native companies to rent extra Singaporeans by such schemes.
He additionally shared that by the NEA grant, every hawker was given S$1,000 so long as they may present proof of working with a supply service.
WhyQ thus digitised the complete onboarding course of for hawkers and made it straightforward for them to obtain invoices and contracts by their platform to allow them to declare the grant.
A complete of over 1,500 hawkers had been capable of declare it by WhyQ.
“With a lot of our hawker companions hit laborious by the autumn in walk-in gross sales, we hope to see extra measures focused at serving to small meals companies like hawkers on their paths to digitisation,” mentioned Rishabh.
“(This may) come within the type of incentives for hawkers to transit their companies on-line or undertake sensible options that might ease every day operations and make sure the longevity of their companies.”
Vincent Xue, co-founder and CEO of WEBUY
Based by ezbuy’s ex-co-founder, social commerce agency WEBUY focuses primarily on offering prospects with every day requirements and groceries so that they weren’t too badly impacted by the pandemic.
“As a substitute, by our platform, we noticed how different companies had been badly affected as a result of break within the provide chain. (They) relied on WEBUY to open up different avenues for his or her enterprise mannequin to thrive,” mentioned Vincent.
“Each our worldwide and native suppliers who catered to promoting their merchandise to massive eating places within the area noticed a chance to diversify their buyer base to incorporate the on a regular basis buyer.”
Fortunately, simply because the pandemic began, WEBUY had simply ended its Sequence A funding of US$6 million. This contemporary injection of funds helped them to retain all its employees and “develop the enterprise threefold in 2020,” mentioned Vincent.
“Because of the spike in e-commerce gross sales for every day requirements, WEBUY grew its crew and its capabilities by the cellular app to assist each prospects and purchasers in an effort to totally maximise the expertise and alternative.”
In keeping with Vincent, the previous Funds assist measures was “sufficient” to assist them tide by troublesome occasions by chopping down on their bills.
For one, it allowed their purchasers from the normal F&B sector to search out digital avenues to allow them to be aligned with Singapore’s digital transformation roadmap.
With Funds 2021, we understood that financial help measures had been being rolled out as the primary line of motion. Nevertheless, as a consequence of latest adjustments in employment rules, we hope that assist measures will permit a lax in international hires.
Though unemployment ranges in Singapore have been recorded as being the bottom lately, we do see that hiring a various crew of individuals adjustments the way in which we develop our enterprise and for our future expansions.
– Vincent Xue, co-founder and CEO of WEBUY
He added that he hopes that the federal government will work in tandem with native companies to higher perceive their ache factors with reference to hiring and enterprise circulation.
Kenny Choy, co-founder of Sqkii
Previous to COVID-19, Sqkii had recognized 2020 because the yr to kickstart its growth into the broader Asia market.
“Even earlier than the yr began, we had secured a number of tasks in Singapore and past. However as quickly because the pandemic hits us, nearly all of those tasks had been put to a halt.”
“Our income for the month of April dropped to S$0 for the very first time,” shared Kenny.
For sure, the pandemic compelled them to rethink their enterprise technique.
He famous that as social distancing is predicted to turn into a norm and air journey anticipated to rebound within the years forward, the growth and even resumption of a viral bodily activation must take a backseat indefinitely.
Sqkii knew they needed to shortly adapt to the ‘new regular’. In early March final yr, they deliberate a brand new digital technique by revamping their gamification strategy.
“Since then, we had developed six new video games and initiatives, of which 4 had been efficiently monetised,” mentioned Kenny.
“Basically, we took benefit of the scenario the place most manufacturers wish to shift their advertising and marketing efforts on-line and that customers are searching for for various leisure (and gaming) sources due to the restrictions in air journey.”
“This mixture of things permits the sort of modified gamification companies that we offer to shine by as it’s an effective way to interact bored shoppers whereas driving advertising and marketing aims in a enjoyable method that helps manufacturers stand out from the extremely aggressive digital panorama.”
By the fourth quarter of 2020, Sqkii had elevated their headcount by over 50 per cent and their revenues have additionally bounced again to pre-COVID ranges.
The SGUnited traineeship programme has inspired a lean startup like us to develop our native crew at a faster tempo than we had initially deliberate. Actually, now we have been more than happy with the trainees we had employed and have each intention to transform them full-time after the traineeship programme has lapsed.
Via this expertise, I consider an extension of this programme or perhaps a watered-down model would profit each potential staff and small-time employers tremendously as they proceed to manoeuvre out of this extremely unsure panorama.
Kenny Choy, co-founder of Sqkii
He added that Sqkii is planning to develop their crew additional following the elevated demand for gamification advertising and marketing.
Trying again on previous Funds measures, Kenneth mentioned that initiatives just like the JSS and SG United Traineeship programme had been very useful in getting them recover from the “preliminary shock”.
“As we didn’t precisely anticipate assist from the federal government, the money payouts from the JSS got here as a pleasant shock. It offered us with some finances to experiment with new and daring initiatives as we try and craft out new income sources.”
Certainly one of these new initiatives is #HuntFromHome, which is partly funded by JSS.
“We made use of the funds to analysis, develop, market and execute a number of pilots of this digital version of our signature #HuntTheMouse marketing campaign.”
The experiment exceeded expectations and they’re now seeking to launch the sport in Malaysia.
On that be aware, he hopes to see extra assist measures that may assist native firms develop abroad regardless of the extended journey restrictions for Funds 2021.
William Chin, founder and CEO of Mummys Market
The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected the complete MICE trade, however Mummy’s Market has turned the disaster into a chance.
It accelerated its seven-year plan to at least one yr, searching for out various channels to proceed catering to prospects.
“We shifted our enterprise from the MICE sector in direction of the digital area to launch Singapore’s largest on-line child honest by mid-Might 2020. This garnered round S$5.8 million in gross merchandise income,” mentioned William.
“Apart from the e-commerce platform, we additionally introduced our operations again offline and launched our first-ever bodily retail retailer at Suntec Metropolis.”
When it grew to become obvious that they’d now not be capable to do offline occasions, Mummys Market determined to re-skill present employees as an alternative of retrenching them.
“We (bought) our present crew to pivot their skillsets to give attention to new areas, and upskill to select up any crucial abilities required for such a transition.”
As an example, the gross sales crew moved from promoting exhibition areas to turn into class managers, engaged on buying content material equivalent to listings and offers, and doubling up as customer support assist for moms.
The advertising and marketing crew had been additionally given a crash course on digital efficiency methods and ways to adapt to the brand new course.
Past retaining their employees, Mummys Market truly employed new employees, notably these which were retrenched from different affected industries, to assist meet elevated calls for and desires from the brand new platforms.
Previously Budgets, the federal government cushioned the employment charge dip with JSS, which now we have benefited from. The introduction of the Jobs Development Incentive additionally helped to encourage firms like ours which might be both rising or pivoting ahead to have the ability to take a leap that might in any other case have been too dangerous throughout this risky interval.
Enterprise Singapore has additionally been very supportive, opening their doorways even wider in the course of the preliminary part of the pandemic to offer their assist in establishing enterprise continuity plans.
– William Chin, founder and CEO of Mummy’s Market
Commenting on the upcoming Funds, William mentioned that he’s optimistic that no matter assist measures that can be unveiled can be useful for companies, as per earlier Funds bulletins.
“It doesn’t matter what developments might come, my biggest want is for Singapore to get well and for us to return to normalcy as quickly as we are able to,” he summed up.
Jaslyn Chan, Chief Development Officer of IUIGA
Whereas retail has been badly hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, Jaslyn noticed an fascinating impact. Having adopted an omni-channel enterprise mannequin, IUIGA truly noticed a optimistic influence to its digital-first strategy.
“Day by day on-line retail visitors went up nearly 4 occasions compared to common brick-and-mortar operations in Singapore, notably throughout April’s circuit breaker.”
She additionally noticed that bodily retail experiences advanced in the course of the pandemic, so she sees it as a chance to “set a brand new tone in how on a regular basis shoppers can join with the shopping for expertise.”
This led to the launch of IUIGA’s first furniture-retail expertise retailer in August final yr, which represents their rising confidence in reimagining the way forward for retail.
2020’s Funds assist measures have been useful to bridge conventional companies of their transition to turning into extra digitally linked companies.
For IUIGA, the measures had a complementary influence as our enterprise mannequin is already digital-first in precept and mechanism. This enabled us to make use of the assist measures in additional prudent areas like cashflow administration. Likewise, malls provided prolonged rebates for occupancy and this offered a runway for our retail growth.
– Jaslyn Chan, Chief Development Officer of IUIGA
As IUIGA continues to witness elevated on-line shopper engagement and transactions, it additional validated their omni-channel enterprise mannequin.
In keeping with Jaslyn, employees performance-bonuses had been elevated, and present employees had been additionally doubled in different areas as their focus shifted in direction of on-line retail fulfilment and on-line retail engagement.
Actually, IUIGA remains to be looking for brand new hires because the model continues to develop.
For this yr’s Funds, Jaslyn mentioned that it’s troublesome to pinpoint what measure to anticipate given how all companies will nonetheless have to adapt to the developments of COVID-19.
“What IUIGA is protecting shut watch is how the impacts of our interconnected monetary system will cascade all the way down to companies.”
“It could be useful to see how extra integrative assist measures/grants might work in tandem for companies whom are nonetheless transitioning to satisfy the evolving behaviour patterns of at the moment’s patrons, be it within the B2B or B2C area,” she added.
Hiring Is A Prime-Of-Thoughts Concern For Employers
Though many companies have been badly hit by the pandemic, it looks as if they’re on observe to a gentle restoration.
To additional develop their enterprise, many are nonetheless seeking to rent regardless of the weak job market.
These hiring efforts have been made potential because of the federal government’s varied initiatives like traineeship alternatives, wage assist, and international employee wage levies.
Nevertheless, with nearly S$100 billion dished out for final yr’s Funds, it is extremely possible that this upcoming Funds can be set at a smaller scale.
Understandably, from the federal government’s standpoint, it might be inconceivable to present out extra assist on condition that the COVID-19 scenario remains to be dynamically evolving.
We don’t even understand how lengthy this virus outbreak will final and it might be unwise for the federal government to deplete all of the finances now.
With the numerous quantity drawn from the reserves final yr, it will be significant that the proposals in Funds 2021 are designed with a long-term, prudent view to assist Singapore work in direction of restoring its funds.
Now that the worst of the pandemic appears to be like to be behind us, particularly with the vaccine quickly to be distributed, it’s time to give attention to supporting companies to strengthen and remodel for the long run.
Featured Picture Credit score: WEBUY / Vulcan Submit / Haulio / Sqkii / IUIGA / Mummys Market