Google and UOB launch training programme to help SMEs grow

Google and United Overseas Bank (UOB) have joined forces to launch the SME Leadership Academy, a new training programme for business leaders from small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Launched by Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing in Singapore on Monday, the SME Leadership Academy is supported by Digital Industry Singapore (DISG) and SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG).

Chan Chun Sing, Minister for Trade and Industry; Stephanie Davis, MD, Google SEA;  Frederick Chin, Head of Group Wholesale Banking and Markets, UOB; and graduates from the pilot cohorts of the SME Leadership Academy.  Photo courtesy: Google
Chan Chun Sing, Minister for Trade and Industry; Stephanie Davis, MD, Google SEA; Frederick Chin, Head of Group Wholesale Banking and Markets, UOB; and graduates from the pilot cohorts of the SME Leadership Academy. Photo courtesy: Google

The new three-day programme builds on the successful Go Global programme, which has helped more than 2,700 SMEs tap into the global market. It offers a specialised learning experience that equips business leaders with the relevant know-how to capitalise on the booming internet economy. 

This is especially imperative now, with the digital economy in the Southeast Asian region reaching an inflection point. “The businesses in Singapore are part of the fastest growing developing region in the world, and the SMEs are the most important group of companies in terms of digital adoption,” said Stephanie Davis, Managing Director, Google Southeast Asia.

Stephanie Davis, Managing Director, Google Southeast Asia. Photo courtesy: Google
Stephanie Davis, Managing Director, Google Southeast Asia. Photo courtesy: Google

Approximately 99 per cent of businesses in Singapore are SMEs, and they employ 72 percent of the workforce in the country while contributing to about 47 per cent of the national GDP. 

Highlighting the significant role of SMEs, Davis added, “SMEs are the bedrock of Singapore’s economy, and helping them succeed is paramount to building a bright future in the digital economy. Through the SME Leadership Academy, we are equipping business leaders with the knowledge, tools and connections to help them adapt to the changing markets and customer needs and grow profitably.”

Minister Chan stressed that SMEs in Singapore need to go beyond thinking of themselves as ‘small and medium enterprises’. “If the SMEs are employing 72 per cent of our workforce and yet only produce 47 per cent of the country’s GDP, then in the definitions of the banking world, we are underperforming,” he said.  

Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing. Photo courtesy: Google
Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing. Photo courtesy: Google

“One of the wonders of technology is that today, businesses can scale beyond physical borders much more easily. The partnership between Google and UOB combines the kind of things we want our SMEs to adopt and leverage on, in order to create the new growth opportunities that go beyond the conventional constraints of physical size,” he added. 

The top three obstacles that SMEs face in adopting digital tools are internal hurdles such as a lack of effective digitalisation strategies; the lack of talent with sufficient digital know-how and capacity; as well as cost and resource constraints. 

The SME Leadership Academy will provide interactive discussions and lessons led by business leaders from Google, UOB and other enterprises to address these issues. SMEs will gain insights and practical guidance on how they can use digital solutions to adapt to the changing business landscape and enhance their workplace to be more efficient and productive. 

Under this programme, there will be ongoing cohorts in every quarter until the end of 2020. The next cohort of SME Leadership Academy will kick off on August 13, 2019. 

Frederick Chin, Head of Group Wholesale Banking and Markets at UOB, said, “In today’s business environment, technology is a critical enabler for companies large and small. Through the SME Leadership Academy, we hope that SMEs will be able to gain the necessary skills and expertise to use technology to improve their performance and to provide a better customer experience."

Author
Kareyst Lin
Kareyst Lin – Senior Correspondent

Kareyst has experience in writing about B2B technology for Computerworld Singapore, MIS Asia and CIO Asia; and on government technology for GCIO Asia. Her pet areas are artificial intelligence, Internet of Things and smart cities - these are fueled by her obsession with sci-fi movies and philosophy of mind. An active Yoga practitioner and cat lover, with a background in Indian philosophy, subaltern and diaspora studies.

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