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S’pore SMEs received more than $30b in govt support between 2019 and 2022

SINGAPORE – Smaller companies here received around $30 billion in government support between 2019 and 2022 through a combination of grants, tax incentives and financing tools.

While The Straits Times understands that the figure includes the additional assistance rolled out to firms during the Covid-19 pandemic, there were no details on how the aggregate number broke down into the individual schemes in each of those years.

Nevertheless, Minister of State for Trade and Industry Low Yen Ling, who revealed the figure on Wednesday, said that the Government remains committed to helping local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) expand overseas, given that such firms make up 99 per cent of companies here and employ more than 70 per cent of the workforce.

Ms Low told the 900 or so attendees at a one-day SME Centre Conference at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre that “internationalisation is not merely an option; Singapore companies must grow and be able to compete on a global scale”.

“Given the constraints of our small domestic market, Singapore companies must expand their horizons and explore new markets overseas,” she noted.

The many initiatives available to SMEs include the recently launched GoBusiness IP Grow platform, which helps businesses safeguard their commercial interests, particularly in terms of managing intangible assets and protecting intellectual property.

These include a company’s brand, technology and its founders’ know-how and expertise, factors that are often overlooked when companies venture overseas, Ms Low noted.

VertisPro, a rapidly growing healthtech company that helps medical providers find patients who have specific interventional needs, has used the platform.

Chief executive Harshad Puppalwar described it as a useful tool that gave “us great advice… removing the uncertainties related to getting started”.

It provided access to pertinent information about trademarks, grants to defray costs and a directory that helped the company identify local firms that could speed up the process of starting the business.

“It definitely gives us an edge when competing globally,” Mr Puppalwar added.

Ms Low noted at the event, which was supported by Enterprise Singapore (EnterpriseSG), that the Government has helped SMEs expand overseas through “a robust range of support schemes and measures”, several of which have been expanded this year.

These include the Market Readiness Assistance grant that helps companies partially pay for advice from pre-approved trade consultants, along with Double Tax Deduction for Internationalisation that also covers e-commerce-related activities now.

Meanwhile, enhancements to the Enterprise Financing Scheme, which has helped companies that need trade and working-capital loans, have been extended until March 31, 2024.

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Separately, the SME Centres, which are supported by EnterpriseSG and the various trade associations and chambers or TACs, play a crucial role in helping businesses grow and pursue opportunities overseas.

Lek Lim Nonya Cake Trading, a 55-year-old business that specialises in traditional production and distribution of nonya kueh, has benefited from these centres.

Managing director Gavan Sing said his company received invaluable assistance in penetrating the Australian market.

It is now trying to break into the British market as well.

He said the SME Centre@SMF helped generate a mindset change through one of its workshops, helping accelerate the company’s product launches.

“We’ve become bolder in pushing our kueh into overseas markets because we now see failure as a stepping stone to success,” he said, noting that “we dare to fail fast and relearn even faster”.

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