2020-06-26 05:00:00 2020-06-27 04:59:00 SPH 2 1 The coronavirus pandemic has made business transformation even more crucial and the Government must support the push for change by providing a pro-enterprise environment, said Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Chee Hong Tat yesterday.

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The coronavirus pandemic has made business transformation even more crucial and the Government must support the push for change by providing a pro-enterprise environment, said Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Chee Hong Tat yesterday.

He added that businesses must take workers along on their transformation journey by reskilling and training them.

In an interview with The Straits Times for ST's The Big Story, Mr Chee said: "Many of the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are aware that they have to adapt to this new normal, and before Covid-19, many of them already started. But with Covid-19, there is now an even greater impetus and urgency."

To support businesses, the Pro-Enterprise Panel, a private-public platform under the Ministry of Trade and Industry, looks into reducing regulatory barriers for businesses trying new concepts.

Mr Chee said: "We have been looking at some of the ways in which we can help to reduce business costs... and support new business models, new innovations, and to give our companies, especially SMEs, more opportunities to be able to demonstrate their capabilities and to build up a track record."

He said one way is to remove overlapping licences that companies have to apply for, which means that fees have been reduced by more than $500 in some cases.

Rules can also be adjusted, such as allowing for pro-rated licences for a few months instead of a full year to reduce the costs of failure for start-ups.

"Instead of saying 'cannot', ask 'why not'? Don't say 'no' straightaway, be prepared to consider whether it's possible, and ask ourselves what the rationale for the rule is rather than stick to just the rule itself," he said.

He added that the Government should also be a gatekeeper to check through ideas and allow valid ones through, instead of a goalkeeper that blocks any idea.

"We have to be prepared to take some risk... As we enter this new normal, and we ask companies to transform and to innovate, the Government must do the same.

"So this is our responsibility as well, to innovate our rules, to transform our regulations so that we are better able to support our companies."

But he also cautioned that transformation should not just start with technology, but with businesses looking at how to improve their processes or services.

"Very often, there's also a misperception that technology is the solution, like a silver bullet. And that is actually not true. Many of the successful adopters of technology have told us that they don't start by asking which technology... They start by asking, what solutions do I need to better meet the needs of my customer?"

ROLES IN THE NEW NORMAL

As we enter this new normal, and we ask companies to transform and to innovate, the Government must do the same. So this is our responsibility as well, to innovate our rules, to transform our regulations so that we are better able to support our companies.

MR CHEE HONG TAT, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry, on how the Government can help companies.

GEARING UP FOR E-COMMERCE

(In) this new normal... with all the safe distancing limitations and constraints... I think you will see more people turning to e-commerce, and therefore our retailers must be ready.

MR CHEE, on changes to business models brought on by the circuit breaker to curb the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mr Chee added that technology also has to be combined with human-centric designs, and brought up examples of companies such as Apple and Dyson that attract consumers through user-friendly designs.

There is an increasing focus on this here, with universities such as the Singapore University of Technology and Design supporting such an approach.

All sectors can transform themselves, Mr Chee said, noting that specific industries can get solutions that are customised to meet their specific needs.

For example, Enterprise Singapore rolled out booster packages for retailers and food and beverage establishments during the circuit breaker to help them go online.

Mr Chee said: "(In) this new normal... with all the safe distancing limitations and constraints... I think you will see more people turning to e-commerce, and therefore our retailers must be ready."

Companies must also take their workers on the journey through skills upgrading.

People can take this time to take up traineeships even if they cannot secure a full-time job, Mr Chee said.

The National Jobs Council will be setting up 24 centres at various locations and organising job fairs with a range of positions, including temporary and traineeship roles.

"In this difficult economic climate, you can't just rely on permanent jobs alone," he said.

"You can go for training... and in the meantime, receive a stipend... while you wait for the job market to recover," Mr Chee said.

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