7 local businesses selected for SME accelerator programme in Singapore

SEVEN local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) will undergo a digital makeover as part of a business transformation programme by accelerator The FinLab, which organisers claim is the first such programme catering to SMEs in Singapore.

The seven SMEs are: CK Department Store, International Labs, Angel Supermart, Siam Coconut, Straits Dental Group, Lih Ming Construction, and Acepac International.

These SMEs will tap on the guidance, resources and mentorship provided by The FinLab's network of industry experts, mentors and technology leaders to develop and to deepen their digital capabilities.

The FinLab is a joint venture between United Overseas Bank (UOB) and SGInnovate, a government-owned innovation platform.

During the four-month programme, participating SMEs will be guided by The FinLab and its partners as they identify problem statements in their business and equip themselves with the tools and knowledge required to innovate.

Following that, relevant solution providers - in particular technology startups - will be introduced to SMEs to select and pilot the most appropriate solutions.

Janet Young, head of group channels and digitalisation at UOB, said SMEs that want to successfully transform themselves must first have the right business model.

"Through The FinLab, these SMEs will be able to connect with the right partners as they transform their business models and to acquire the technological know-how to improve their operational performance and to enhance their customer experience," she said.

This is The FinLab's third cycle of its accelerator programme, but the first solely focused on SMEs. The previous two cycles were targeted at startups.

Felix Tan, managing director of The FinLab, said that it was after the first two cycles of the programme that they recognised an opportunity to facilitate the adoption of technology by connecting SMEs with the startups that created the solutions.

He added: "We have selected SMEs that have the desire to stay relevant and to thrive in the digital economy by innovating and remaining agile to participate in our programme."

One of the SMEs partipating in the programme is CK Department Store (myCK), a local retail chain that sells daily necessities and apparel across its 20 outlets, mostly located in the heartlands.

CS Sim, Deputy Director at myCK, who is part of the second-generation leadership in the company, said: "For the business to continue to thrive, we need to be where our customers are, whether at a physical store in the heartlands or online. Besides the challenge of determining the best digital solution among the wide array of options, we also need to understand how we can create and inculcate an innovative culture within the company to ensure our competiveness in the long run."

The third cycle of The FinLab's accelerator programme started on March 28, 2018. SMEs will finish the programme in August 2018.