E-commerce can boost SME growth

E-commerce can boost SME growth

New Straits Times
By Veena Babulal
June 5, 2020 @ 9:10am

KUALA LUMPUR: E-Commerce players are keen to see what the short-term Economic Recovery Plan (ERP) will offer the small- and medium-scale enterprise (SME) sector to resuscitate and boost its growth, which has taken a major battering from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Shopee regional managing director Ian Ho said many would look forward to the initiatives that would be announced by the Prime Minister in the afternoon today.

“We understand that there will be special emphasis on driving recovery and growth for SMEs via stronger digitalisation (initiatives),” he told the New Straits Times.

It was learnt that major players in the sector such as Shopee, Grab and a number of other e-commerce platforms were called for briefings by the Finance Ministry yesterday as part of its multi-industry and cross-sector consultations of the country’s massive recovery plan.

“Shopee is ready to play its part by forging a stronger public-private alliance to attract more Malaysian SMEs to the digital ecosystem and to ensure that they will do well in the online business.

“We believe that through all these collaborative efforts, it will help spur the nation’s economy.”

Lazada Malaysia chief executive officer Leo Chow said a digital-led SME recovery plan was crucial for Malaysia to bounce back and ensure that local businesses continue to thrive in a post-pandemic world.

He said there was a need to hasten the digitalisation of SMEs to not just cope but flourish in times of the ‘new-normal’.

“We have already seen a significant and accelerated shift to digital by our local SMEs over the last five months and a fundamental shake up in the business landscape.

“Cameron Highlands’ farmers who were throwing out their crops as they were unable to sell their produce when the pandemic hit, sold about 70 tonnes of produce within three weeks on Lazada. Grocery is now one of the top 3 highest-growing categories on our platform,” said Chow.

He said that a number of its efforts to offer assistance to SMEs and smalltime merchants opportunities to sell their services on the platform were already bearing fruit.

Grab Malaysia also hoped the government would review infrastructure and measures to encourage consumers, SMEs, brick-and-mortar businesses and microSMEs to embrace the digital economy.

“During these unprecedented times, we have seen how the pandemic has altered economies, transforming how businesses cater to their customers.

“As we move towards the new normal, the digitalisation of the economy and wider adoption of digital financial services are paramount, so we hope the government will consider initiatives to enable and empower the livelihoods of Malaysians and businesses.”

TNG Digital Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Ignatius Ong said the sustainability of the SME sector, regarded as the backbone of the economy with 98.5 per cent of business establishments being SMEs, would be assured once they go digital.

“As such, it is crucial to educate SMEs on the possibilities of business revivals via e-commerce, basic digital marketing lessons and the importance of contactless payment.

“In addition, it is also necessary to aid them with incentives in their digitisation process, such as a subsidy to get mobile phones and budget to boost social media presence, and a hotline to assist small entrepreneurs get back on their feet,” he said.

He said Touch ‘n Go eWallet was ready to support businesses via creative and innovative solutions.

“For SMEs and Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), contactless payment presents itself with an opportunity that they can tap into and optimise to digitise their payment processes.

“As always, we want to map our 10 million users across the different SMEs while meeting the needs of the people.”