Eleven of Singapore’s Enterprises Digitally Enabled for the Future Economy

The FinLab, a joint venture between United Overseas Bank Limited (UOB) and SGInnovate, announced the milestone achievements of the 11 Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) participating in Singapore’s first “Smart Business Transformation” programme earlier last week.

The four-month programme comprised workshops, mentoring sessions and evaluations of various technology solutions designed to catalyse the SMEs’ digital transformation. Apart from gaining better understanding about how different technologies can be integrated into their businesses, the SMEs have also deepened their digital capabilities by piloting solutions which harness technologies such as machine learning, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotic Process Automation. The latest programme saw SME owners collaborating with domain experts to first equip themselves with the knowledge and tools to self-innovate and to manage change. 

It is the first acceleration programme of its kind that is designed for SMEs. It is also The FinLab’s third acceleration cycle. The FinLab’s previous cycles focused on scaling-up and commercialising solutions from innovative FinTech start-ups shortlisted from over 700 applicants from more than 44 countries.

Currently, all 11 participating SMEs are working to pilot up to two solutions each, with plans to roll them out fully following the pilots’ success. To mark the completion of the programme, The FinLab organised a Showcase Day at the School of Arts Singapore for all the SMEs to share their experience and the technology solutions that are being piloted in their respective businesses.

Positive Progress From Pilots

Siam Coconut, a distributor of Thai groceries, is already selling their flagship coconut water “Cocoloco”2 product through its Facebook page by working with, an e-commerce enabler. With’s solution, Cocoloco can be purchased through Facebook Messenger using a bot to automatically take and fulfil orders; thereby adding a new channel to the company’s sales network.

Mr. Kelvin Ngian, General Manager and second-generation owner of Siam Coconut, said, “Even without setting up an e-commerce website, I can use our existing social media page to direct sales of Cocoloco. I will be making available our new range of fresh fruit juices via this new channel soon.”

Meanwhile, EU Holidays – a travel agent specialising in tours in the US and Europe – has deployed a lead-generation solution by Novocall on their website. Novocall’s solution, which can be implemented quickly and easily, helps the travel agent to track and to convert website visits into potential leads.

Mr. Wong Yew Hoong, Director of EU Holidays, said, “Within a month, Novocall has generated a total of 160 leads, a 17 percent increase from what we typically get from our website. We are excited by the early results and are working with them to co-create aspects of the solution to suit our company’s needs. We look forward to deepening our working relationship with Novocall.”

Singapore-based Affable Technologies is one of the solution providers that is piloting their solution through The FinLab’s programme. Their AI-based technology is used by International Labs, a distributor of global retail brands such as Everlast, to identify relevant Instagram influencers with followers fitting Everlast’s target market to help grow brand awareness and drive sales.

Mr. Nisarg Shah, CEO and co-founder of Affable Technologies, said, “The FinLab’s programme has given us the opportunity to work with companies like International Labs that are open to adopting innovative solutions. Apart from gaining business traction, we have been able to benefit from their feedback which then enables us to continue improving our platform.”

Mr. KS Ho, Operations Director at Acepac International, a supplier of packaging products and warehouse fulfilment services, said that The FinLab’s programme has helped his company to accelerate their efforts and to connect them with a wide range of innovative solutions. “We recognise that there are opportunities in the digital economy and that we must first get our business model right. Rather than adopt technology in a piecemeal way, we wanted to take a structured approach, by determining our business model before deciding which steps to take based on our priorities and resources”, Mr. Koh said. 

Working Together To Foster Holistic Business Transformation

Ms. Janet Young, Head of Group Channels and Digitalisation, United Overseas Bank (UOB) said, “At UOB, we have a first-hand understanding of the factors that enable SMEs to succeed, including how to harness technology for better performance. We know that SMEs looking to embrace digital technology appreciate assistance from their banks who can connect them with non-financial service providers that can help to address their broader business needs3. This is why we support The FinLab to help SMEs understand the impact of digitalisation on their company and how they can transform their business model before linking them with our ecosystem of technology solution providers.”

Mr. Felix Tan, Managing Director of The FinLab, emphasised the importance for business owners and their management teams to approach innovation with an open mindset to learn and take in different viewpoints, a willingness to explore and try new ways of doing things, and the ability to see the transformation process through.“Adopting new technology is only one part of the equation. To ensure that the transformation process is sustainable, change needs to happen in manageable steps that dovetail into an overall strategy. So, though their digital transformation journey is far from over, we are confident that these 11 SMEs will see their efforts to fruition.”

Cycle 3 is supported by Workforce Singapore (WSG). The third cycle of The FinLab’s Smart Business Transformation programme commenced in March 2018. In June, The Finlab, partnered with the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and the National Association of Travel Agents Singapore (NATAS), to run the acceleration programme for the travel industry. All seven SMEs and four travel agencies shared their digitalisation vision and pilots at the Showcase Day today.

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