CONSUMER goods giant Procter & Gamble (P&G) will be pumping in US$100 million over the next five years in its Singapore digital innovation centre launched on Tuesday, in a move to boost digital capabilities and strengthen partnerships with small and medium enterprises (SMEs) here.
The E-Center, which is established in partnership with the Economic Development Board (EDB), will focus on digital innovation in three core areas of supply chain management, e-business strategy, and e-analytics. It is the first of its kind outside the US.
Nicolas Defauw, vice-president, finance & accounting, P&G Asia Pacific, said that P&G was hiring up to 50 people in these three areas, with plans to expand further in the next few years.
"This centre is located at the heart of a region where digital is at the forefront of the economy . . . Singapore is a very important market for us."
SMEs and startups stand to benefit from this new development through deeper collaboration with P&G, which would support their capability upgrading by co-developing new digital solutions.
In his speech, Minister of Trade and Industry (Industry) S Iswaran said that such partnerships between large and small enterprises were "an important means of catalysing the adoption of digital technologies".
The push towards digitalisation is a "major priority" for Singapore and one of the key recommendations from the Committee on the Future Economy, he added.
P&G's partnership with local SME Golden Wheel Industries, a contract manufacturing and packaging services firm, was cited as an example.
Golden Wheel has collaborated with P&G Singapore to develop and make sample batches of P&G's hair, skincare and consumer products.
In the process, staff were trained in digital systems to improve the productivity of manufacturing processes, such as automating the recording of manufacturing data and results. The skills acquired also helped Golden Wheel boost its services to other clients. Today, it has over 30 staff based in P&G's Innovation Center to support research as well as in production facility.
In parallel with the E-center launch, P&G also launched the second edition of its leadership development programme for SMEs, known as the P&G Leadership College, on Tuesday.
In collaboration with Spring Singapore, the half-day training programme aims to build management capabilities at SMEs.
Some 30 attending SMEs learnt about digital and e-commerce from speakers of other technology companies such as Ematic Solutions, Google, NTUC Fairprice and Uber, in addition to P&G.
Mr Defauw said that in today's digital world, it is all about the ecosystem. One company, he pointed out, cannot thrive on its own.
"We believe that by training and developing SMEs, we can have a much stronger ecosystem that serves the digital economy. Today we work with about 200 SMEs in Singapore, and we hope that we can expand this further, especially in the digital field."
Aside from SMEs, P&G will be working closely with institutes of higher learning to tap their knowledge and co-develop industry-relevant curriculum in digital skillsets.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of P&G in Singapore. First established as a 100-strong regional sales office in 1987, the Singapore outfit now serves as the Asia-Pacific headquarters with 2,000 employees.
Singapore is also one of P&G's global hubs for innovation and talent development. There are 400 researchers at its Singapore Innovation Center and over 500 managers are trained annually at its Asia Leadership Development Center here.