SMEs Must Go Digital to Survive & Flourish: Hear From Two Successful Entrepreneurs

DBS digibanking SME banking go digital

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Running a business has never been easy, and today, inflationary pressures and supply chain disruptions are of particular concern to most business leaders. But for those who’ve chosen to take this path, staying nimble and facing challenges head-on is a part of everyday life.

Just ask these entrepreneurs behind two successful Singapore businesses that have flourished and thrived in these COVID-19 times.

The strategy for both? The ability to pivot business models and embrace digitalisation. Read on for their stories.


Kai, co-founder of Ah Hua Kelong and Scaled

As a child, Kai had always wanted to open a restaurant — he even drew up a floor plan for his primary school art exam. It was indeed a dream come true when he finally opened the doors to Scaled in 2018 as its co-founder.

However, this was not without its challenges.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, the Singapore government-imposed measures to curb the spread of COVID-19. This included the temporary closure of businesses, and restaurants were among those affected.

Kai recalls: “In a way, DBS saved me when I was ‘dying’. When the pandemic hit, I applied for a DBS Loan. It was the easiest one to do online. Once I signed the documents, next thing I knew, the funds were in. That helped tide me through a lot of things.”

He adds: “I’m quite proud to say I’ve never axed anybody, throughout the whole pandemic. I gave them a full salary. In fact, some received an increment. I even managed to give a mini bonus as appreciation.”

Kai is also the co-founder of Ah Hua Kelong, a fish farm business that was set up eight years ago. It is from this farm that fresh local seafood is delivered to households — the first business to do so — and also supplied to Scaled.

“I’m actually allergic to seafood, but here I am, in this business,” quips Kai.

Shares the passionate farmer turned restaurateur: “Being able to deliver home-grown produce to local households is something that we are very proud of…We started Scaled to showcase local seafood in a different light.”

Kai is now moving onto his next venture, a bakery business where he has partnered with an experienced baker, and as with any new, small business, cash flow management is crucial. With the support of DBS IDEAL, he can effectively manage his cash flow.


Mr Lim See Wah, CEO of Hyphens Pharma

Mr Lim See Wah, CEO of Hyphens Pharma, has always been committed to making healthcare accessible to all. The company’s leading product is Ceradan, a scientifically formulated emollient therapy for eczema management that focuses entirely on skin barrier restoration.

During the pandemic, he seized the opportunity to deepen his business’ digital capabilities. This helped him work towards achieving his vision and goal of making healthcare accessible to all.

He recalls its early days: “Buying into Hyphens then gave us a pathway to regionalise. If you just look at Southeast Asia, it is a very big population base. But the level of care, access to healthcare, and access to good-quality pharmaceuticals was relatively low.”

“If the countries have the means, every government wants to look after their people. But the question over here is, how can we organise ourselves? If we get ourselves properly organised to do something, we can tap business opportunities and at the same time meaningfully contribute to serving the needs of this part of the world and beyond,” he adds.

However, just expanding into the region alone was not enough. His business was on a digitalisation trajectory, but the majority of his customers weren’t…until the push for digitalisation when the pandemic hit.

Notes Mr Lim: “We had already gone digital, but the ecosystem wasn’t ready. Our customers preferred to pay by cheques, they preferred to pay by cash. COVID really changed a lot of things and doctors then realised: ‘Oh now there is digital shopping; I can do everything online.’ And when it came to banking needs? ‘Ah! There’s also e-payment that I can do digitally.’”

As the digital ecosystem evolved, Mr Lim continued to move forward. He transitioned to a newer platform, with DBS IDEAL and DBS IDEAL Connect. These cash management systems allow him to digitally manage Hyphens Pharma’s cash flow, banking needs and transactions on a single screen, making operations much more efficient.

He explains: “Our incoming and outgoing funds are all via the platform. The dashboard helps us to see all the money coming in, the money going out, and what is the bank balance at the end of the day.”

With cash flow management and digitalisation taken care of, Mr Lim can focus on the core thing that his business is built on. He says: “Providing a better quality of life is interesting, because frankly, I think the average longevity in most advanced economies is over 80 years old. We want to contribute to making this world a better place.”


DBS’ digital solutions help make businesses future-ready

These entrepreneurs show that agility and the ability to open-mindedly embrace digital solutions can help SMEs pivot and grow their businesses.

DBS digibanking can give your business a boost when you select DBS as your banking partner. Some of what the bank offers includes digital solutions, networking opportunities, FX support, a free debit card, account management and the assurance of a speedy and reliable system.

If you are a budding entrepreneur like Kai, you can sign up for a DBS Business Multi-Currency Account and start your business growth today with its starter account with no initial deposit, no minimum balance and unlimited free FAST/GIRO. Or if you would like to take a loan to boost your business growth, you can apply for a Working Capital Loan.

Or if you would like to empower your business transformation and increase your digital capabilities, DBS can help you digitalise through its Start Digital programme.

In addition, DBS IDEAL is a customisable digital system that lets you access a wide range of functions and tools on the go. Whether you need to give approvals, pay salaries, make FX transactions from a multi-currency wallet or check balances, you can do so on a single screen anytime and anywhere. You’ll also be able to leverage a slew of smart tools and solutions, all through a single dashboard.

Be like the two successful entrepreneurs, Kai and Mr Lim. They recognised that going digital was the way to survive and flourish and took action quickly and decisively to help grow the business to achieve greater heights!

Take your business to greater heights with DBS digibanking. Find out more.

Related: Two Local Entrepreneurs Share How Support from DBS Helped Them Thrive in the Pandemic