Final yr, the Singapore authorities unveiled 4 Budgets amounting to almost S$100 million to assist residents, staff and companies tide over the COVID-19 pandemic.
This unprecedented help comes because the pandemic engulfs companies within the biggest problem they’ve ever confronted. Many corporations are affected by prolonged closures, inflicting important income losses as they’re unable to function.
Regardless of this, companies regularly attempt to rise above the challenges and navigate their approach by these harsh circumstances.
This yr, Deputy Prime Minister Mr Heng Swee Keat will probably be delivering his Funds assertion on 16 February in Parliament.
It’s little question that many employers are expectant of this yr’s agenda, however what precisely is on their want checklist for the upcoming Funds 2021?
Alvin Ea, co-founder and CEO of Haulio
Haulio is within the enterprise of container logistics they usually help port truckers as a expertise 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 throughout the lockdown, the logistics business was nonetheless working.
“The truth is, the previous months have seen an unprecedented growth with a lot actions within the port that has even led to congestions, which we count on to proceed past Chinese language New Yr for the container freight,” he mentioned.
Fortunately, final yr’s Funds bulletins helped the enterprise rather a lot, particularly since its goal business 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 varied 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 circumstances).
– Alvin Ea, co-founder and CEO of Haulio
Moreover, for the reason that business is usually supported by international drivers, he mentioned that it could be nice if the international employee quota for the logistics/haulage sector may be reviewed.
“Ideally, it ought to sit below a separate class as a substitute of the companies sector as a result of nature of the enterprise and the upper issue in buying native staff, as in comparison with different industries in the identical sector,” he instructed.
He additionally expects the manpower crunch in Singapore to proceed for the yr forward. Due to this fact, 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 dearth of native drivers is a significant component, and our view is to reposition the function of the container truck driver by empowering them to do extra by expertise,” he added.
On that observe, he additionally hopes to see extra financial and non-monetary early help to push for digitalisation amongst SMEs.
“As a logistics tech startup, we have now seen the COVID-19 pandemic accelerating the adoption of expertise. For instance, cheque funds have decreased significantly, (as many) transfer in direction of digital choices like PayNow (as a substitute),” mentioned Alvin.
“We hope to see digitalisation being pushed in areas similar to fleet administration as effectively.”
Rishabh Singhvi, co-founder of WhyQ
In line with homegrown hawker meals supply platform WhyQ, it obtained “particular permission” from the Nationwide Atmosphere 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’ each day gross sales,” mentioned Rishabh.
With such “excessive demand” throughout 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 need to resort to retrench staff or impose wage freezes. The JSS offered WhyQ with wage help to assist them retain, and even broaden, their group.
In addition they took benefit of the SG Traineeship programme to rent six trainees.
As a rising startup, WhyQ has needed to maintain our operations nimble and value constructions low. Therefore, we could not all the time have the assets to broaden our group quickly whilst we develop.
With the SG United Traineeship programme, we’re capable of welcome new trainees to assist us with our enlargement 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 business, whereas they every convey beneficial skillsets from their respective fields to contribute as beneficial members of our groups.
– Rishabh Singhvi, co-founder of WhyQ
For Funds 2021, Rishabh hopes to see continued help 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 might present proof of working with a supply service.
WhyQ thus digitised all the 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 onerous 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 could) come within the type of incentives for hawkers to transit their companies on-line or undertake good options that may ease each 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 each day requirements and groceries in order that they weren’t too badly impacted by the pandemic.
“As an alternative, 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$6 million. This contemporary injection of funds helped them to retain all its workers and “develop the enterprise threefold in 2020,” mentioned Vincent.
“As a result of spike in e-commerce gross sales for each day requirements, WEBUY grew its group and its capabilities by the cell app to help each prospects and purchasers with a view to absolutely maximise the expertise and alternative.”
In line with Vincent, the previous Funds help measures was “sufficient” to assist them tide by tough occasions by slicing down on their bills.
For one, it allowed their purchasers from the standard F&B sector to search out digital avenues to allow them to be aligned with Singapore’s digital transformation roadmap.
With Funds 2021, we understood that financial help measures had been being rolled out as the primary line of motion. Nonetheless, as a consequence of latest adjustments in employment laws, we hope that help measures will enable a lax in international hires.
Though unemployment ranges in Singapore have been recorded as being the bottom in recent times, we do see that hiring a various group of individuals adjustments the way in which we develop our enterprise and for our future expansions.
– Vincent Xue, co-founder and CEO of WEBUY
He added that he hopes that the federal government will work in tandem with native companies to raised perceive their ache factors as regards to hiring and enterprise stream.
Kenny Choy, co-founder of Sqkii
Previous to COVID-19, Sqkii had recognized 2020 because the yr to kickstart its enlargement into the broader Asia market.
“Even earlier than the yr began, we had secured a number of tasks in Singapore and past. However as quickly because the pandemic hits us, virtually all of those tasks had been put to a halt.”
“Our income for the month of April dropped to S$zero for the very first time,” shared Kenny.
Evidently, the pandemic pressured them to rethink their enterprise technique.
He famous that as social distancing is anticipated to change into a norm and air journey anticipated to rebound within the years forward, the enlargement 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 method.
“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 state of affairs the place most manufacturers need to shift their advertising and marketing efforts on-line and that customers are searching for for different leisure (and gaming) sources due to the restrictions in air journey.”
“This mixture of things permits the form of modified gamification companies that we offer to shine by as it’s an effective way to interact bored customers whereas driving advertising and marketing aims in a enjoyable approach 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 broaden our native group at a faster tempo than we had initially deliberate. The truth is, we have now been very happy with the trainees we had employed and have each intention to transform them full-time after the traineeship programme has lapsed.
By way of this expertise, I consider an extension of this programme or perhaps a watered-down model would profit each potential workers 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 broaden their group additional following the elevated demand for gamification advertising and marketing.
Wanting 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 count on 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.”
One in every 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 observe, he hopes to see extra help measures that may assist native firms broaden 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 all the MICE business, however Mummy’s Market has turned the disaster into a chance.
It accelerated its seven-year plan to 1 yr, searching for out different 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 truthful by mid-Might 2020. This garnered round S$5.eight million in gross merchandise income,” mentioned William.
“In addition to the e-commerce platform, we additionally introduced our operations again offline and launched our first-ever bodily retail retailer at Suntec Metropolis.”
When it turned obvious that they’d now not be capable to do offline occasions, Mummys Market determined to re-skill present workers as a substitute of retrenching them.
“We (bought) our present group to pivot their skillsets to deal with new areas, and upskill to select up any vital abilities required for such a transition.”
As an illustration, the gross sales group moved from promoting exhibition areas to change into class managers, engaged on buying content material similar to listings and offers, and doubling up as customer support help for moms.
The advertising and marketing group had been additionally given a crash course on digital efficiency methods and ways to adapt to the brand new course.
Past retaining their workers, Mummys Market truly employed new workers, notably these which have been 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 fee dip with JSS, which we have now benefited from. The introduction of the Jobs Progress Incentive additionally helped to encourage firms like ours which can be both rising or pivoting ahead to have the ability to take a leap that may in any other case have been too dangerous throughout this risky interval.
Enterprise Singapore has additionally been very supportive, opening their doorways even wider throughout the preliminary section of the pandemic to offer their help 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 help measures that will probably be unveiled will probably be useful for companies, as per earlier Funds bulletins.
“It doesn’t matter what developments could come, my biggest want is for Singapore to recuperate and for us to return to normalcy as quickly as we are able to,” he summed up.
Jaslyn Chan, Chief Progress Officer of IUIGA
Whereas retail has been badly hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, Jaslyn noticed an attention-grabbing impact. Having adopted an omni-channel enterprise mannequin, IUIGA truly noticed a optimistic affect to its digital-first method.
“Each day on-line retail site visitors went up virtually 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 throughout the pandemic, so she sees it as a chance to “set a brand new tone in how on a regular basis customers 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 help measures have been useful to bridge conventional companies of their transition to changing into extra digitally related companies.
For IUIGA, the measures had a complementary affect as our enterprise mannequin is already digital-first in precept and mechanism. This enabled us to make use of the help measures in additional prudent areas like cashflow administration. Likewise, malls supplied prolonged rebates for occupancy and this offered a runway for our retail enlargement.
– Jaslyn Chan, Chief Progress Officer of IUIGA
As IUIGA continues to witness elevated on-line client engagement and transactions, it additional validated their omni-channel enterprise mannequin.
In line with Jaslyn, workers performance-bonuses had been elevated, and present workers had been additionally doubled in different areas as their focus shifted in direction of on-line retail fulfilment and on-line retail engagement.
The truth is, IUIGA continues to be searching for brand new hires because the model continues to develop.
For this yr’s Funds, Jaslyn mentioned that it’s tough to pinpoint what measure to anticipate given how all companies will nonetheless have to adapt to the developments of COVID-19.
“What IUIGA is conserving shut watch is how the impacts of our interconnected monetary system will cascade right down to companies.”
“It might be useful to see how extra integrative help measures/grants may work in tandem for companies whom are nonetheless transitioning to fulfill the evolving behaviour patterns of at present’s consumers, 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 like they’re on monitor 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 doable due to the federal government’s numerous initiatives like traineeship alternatives, wage help, and international employee wage levies.
Nonetheless, with virtually S$100 billion dished out for final yr’s Funds, it is vitally doubtless that this upcoming Funds will probably be set at a smaller scale.
Understandably, from the federal government’s viewpoint, it could be unimaginable to present out extra help on condition that the COVID-19 state of affairs continues to be dynamically evolving.
We don’t even understand how lengthy this virus outbreak will final and it could be unwise for the federal government to deplete all of the finances now.
With the numerous quantity drawn from the reserves final yr, it is necessary 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 behind us, particularly with the vaccine quickly to be distributed, it’s time to deal with supporting companies to strengthen and remodel for the longer term.
Featured Picture Credit score: WEBUY / Vulcan Publish / Haulio / Sqkii / IUIGA / Mummys Market