Old businesses get new lease of life online
Polytechnic students in Singtel and DBS movement to digitalise SMEs
Temasek Polytechnic (TP) student Valerie Ong thought she had an uphill task when she approached Chun Mee Lee Rattan Furniture, an old shop in Bukit Merah, in May.
The final-year gerontological management studies student, 19, had to convince the owner, Mr Chen Foon Kee, 69, to take steps to digitalise his business.
After listening to Miss Ong's pitch, which included suggestions such as listing his business and uploading pictures of some furniture online, Mr Chen readily agreed.
Miss Ong was one of the 159 TP students who were part of the 99% SME movement launched by Singtel and DBS to help businesses deal with the challenges of retail, such as the rise of e-commerce.
Last month, Singtel and DBS announced that they will partner e-commerce retailer Lazada Singapore to create Singapore's first e-marketplace for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
The students were required to find traditional businesses that were at least 30 years old and help them digitalise.
Miss Ong told The New Paper that she initially faced challenges in locating a business with such a long history.
She said: "My deadline was approaching when I found out from a blog that Chun Mee Lee Rattan Furniture has been around since the 1920s, and I called the shop immediately."
To her relief, Mr Chen was friendly, especially to students, because he had been approached by many art school students for help with their projects.
Mr Chen said: "I have been featured on TV and newspapers, but being online is another way that people can know about my business.
"I have tried going online before, but it was hard because I am not familiar with English."
Another heritage brand, Gold Kili, which supplies instant beverages such as coffee, was also interested in improving its digital footprint.
The 32-year-old business is revamping its website and had considered selling its products on online grocer Redmart.
TP final-year marketing student Marcus Sng, 19, approached the company at the recommendation of his sister, who knew someone at Gold Kili.
Mr Sng said: "I went to their (the business owners') home so I could explain the proposal to them personally.
"They were initially concerned that not many people know about 99% SME but were convinced after I showed them a leaflet explaining that the website has a reach of 4.5 million visitors a month."
Mr Abel Ng, 22, who is helping with the family business, said: "We have always recognised the importance of going online because in the future, there will be a new breed of shoppers who shop only online.
"We have to make our presence known online before it is too late."