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APAC SMEs adapting well to new realities of remote-first business environment – SAP

APAC SMEs are well positioned to adapt to a remote working environment by taking swift actions to implement and adjust remote work arrangements for employees in response to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. 77% reported that they adjusted remote work arrangements for employees in response to COVID-19, as compared to respondents in Europe (75%) and the Americas (71%).

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SAP SE unveiled findings for the study Digital Resilient, and Experience-driven: How Small and Midsize Organisations Can Prepare for the New Economy. The study highlights how small and midsize enterprises (SMEs) in Asia-Pacific (APAC) are uniquely positioned to adapt and thrive in the dynamic and distributed post-COVID-19 business environment.

Conducted in collaboration with Oxford Economics, the study also delved into the priorities, challenges, and digital maturity of SMEs in the Americas, Europe, and APAC. Of the total 2,000 respondents, 832 respondents were from the following APAC markets: Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, and South Korea. A section detailing answers from 240 respondents on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was also added to the survey mid-fieldwork.

Adapting To The New World Of Work

According to the 240 that responded to the series of COVID-19 questions, APAC SMEs are well positioned to adapt to a remote working environment by taking swift actions to implement and adjust remote work arrangements for employees in response to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. 77% reported that they adjusted remote work arrangements for employees in response to COVID-19, as compared to respondents in Europe (75%) and the Americas (71%).

Additionally, 61% of APAC SMEs surveyed created remote work set-ups for employees during this period, while 69% invested in IT and collaboration solutions to support remote access and/or online learning. Interestingly, 10% of APAC SMEs reported that the pandemic has no impact on their ability to accommodate remote work and maintain employee productivity.

On top of supporting business continuity during this period, many APAC SMEs are also actively exploring new channels to get their products and services to customers (66%, vs. 64% in the Americas and 59% in Europe) and developing new products and service offerings (46%, vs. 40% in the Americas and 49% in Europe). 

“SMEs across the region—like their counterparts around the world—have certain advantages over larger competitors in terms of agility and closeness to the customer,” said Edward Cone, Editorial Director of Thought Leadership and Technology Practice Lead at Oxford Economics. “Yet even before the pandemic, SMEs in APAC also faced meaningful challenges in keeping up the pace of digital transformation.”

Lastly, it was revealed that COVID-19 has significantly impacted APAC SMEs’ ability to compete with larger companies within the same industry, with 45% of APAC SMEs reporting that the pandemic has had a significant effect on their operations and strategies in this area. COVID-19 has also affected the ability to operate at full capacity (45%), the ability of the supply chains to keep up with demands (40%), and the ability to keep existing customers (40%). Some respondents reported that they had to completely restructure business strategy and operations in these areas to mitigate the impact of the pandemic

Anticipating The Road Ahead

Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, SMEs in the region reported being optimistic about their long-term prospects. Many APAC SMEs expect that over the next three years, their market share (62%), budget/revenue (76%), number of full-time employees (59%), and profitability (78%) will increase somewhat or substantially.

61% of APAC SMEs surveyed created remote work set-ups for employees during this period, while 69% invested in IT and collaboration solutions to support remote access and/or online learning. Interestingly, 10% of APAC SMEs reported that the pandemic has no impact on their ability to accommodate remote work and maintain employee productivity.

Looking ahead to the next three years, APAC SMEs are prioritising improving the customer experience (40%), growth (38%) and attracting new customers (28%). APAC SMEs believe that the key to providing high-quality customer experience lies in high-quality products and/or services (70%), fast and convenient delivery (64%) and competitive pricing (62%), with the customer-service business function bearing the most responsibility for delivering those experiences (cited by 70% of APAC respondents). Upgrading analytics on customer data is viewed as a go-to strategy to improving customer experience:  28% already have done this across the organisation, and 52% have started to. 

Staying The Course On Digital Transformation

With technology set to play an increasingly critical role in helping APAC SMEs achieve business success in the new digital environment, the study also took a closer look at digital maturity levels of these businesses across the region. Many APAC SMEs say they have made moderate progress toward digital transformation (39%), and 21% have made substantial progress or completely transformed; within three years, 19% expect to have completely transformed. In terms of technological adoption, HR/Talent management software is furthest along (66%), followed by Governance and Cybersecurity software (63%) and Finance and Risk management software (59%). Respondents reported that these technologies are either in use in some applications/projects or are already in use at scale.

Mobile devices and mobile business process enablement, and business management solutions (ERP software) share the top spot in terms of pilot implementation, and APAC SMEs are actively considering emerging technologies, AI/ML and Internet of Things (IoT) as their main investment priority.

Obstacles To Overcome

The road to success does, however, bring challenges. Today, APAC SMEs consider the upskilling/reskilling of the current workforce (30%), lack of coordination between different departments (29%), and inability to gain insights from data (28%) as key internal challenges. In terms of external challenges, APAC SMEs cite changing customer wants and needs (40%), competition from larger organisations (39%), and adapting to a rapidly changing marketplace (27%) as obstacles to their business success.

“Today’s new normal requires businesses to pivot and adapt with speed. SMEs in the region seem to understand that the sense of urgency to digitally transform their businesses will give them an advantage through the pandemic and beyond,” said Claus Andresen, SVP & Head of General Business (SME) and Emerging Markets Growth, Asia Pacific & Japan. “With the adoption of an intelligent enterprise strategy, SMEs can establish a digital core that will power the entire organisation, embedding data-driven insights and decision-making processes across the business. This is crucial in enabling business agility, further strengthening the ability of SMEs to adapt to dynamic market conditions.”

“I am confident SMEs in the region will be able to emerge stronger, having forged closer bonds with customers and employees while developing innovative services and products that will put them on a strong growth trajectory as the world economy recovers,” concluded Andresen.

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UPS helps its Phl customers maintain critical infrastructure following typhoon

UPS’s recent expansion of its Worldwide Express Freight (WWEF) shipment service to more postal codes in the Philippines comes as welcome news to West Point Engineering, a long-time customer of UPS.

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Sitting in a tropical storm-prone belt of the Pacific Ocean known as ‘typhoon alley,’ the Philippines experiences an average of 20 tropical storms every year. 

Last year, on top of dealing with the pandemic, the Philippines was hit by Super Typhoon Goni, the most powerful tropical cyclone in the world in 2020. Goni, or Rolly as it’s locally known, ploughed through Luzon and affected 2.7 million people, displacing 31,000 and damaging or destroying 281,000 homes. Sanitation and hygiene become immediate concerns in the aftermath of a storm like this, with essential water infrastructure usually damaged.

West Point Engineering Supplies Incorporated provides specialized products and solutions to essential infrastructures in the Philippines, such as water, energy and meteorology. 

Among its list of projects is a 10-year program with the weather information services company, Earth Networks, and the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration. They’ll collaborate to use weather monitoring sensors that provide earlier warnings for tropical storms. 

For West Point Engineering, speed and efficiency is essential in installing and maintaining specialized equipment like weather radars, which can save lives and homes. 

That’s why UPS’s recent expansion of its Worldwide Express Freight (WWEF) shipment service to more postal codes in the Philippines comes as welcome news to West Point Engineering, a long-time customer of UPS.

Businesses like West Point Engineering will benefit from time-guaranteed palletized shipments above 70 kilograms to more areas in Bulacan, Mabalacat, Angeles City, Laguna and Batangas, allowing businesses to more easily and quickly replenish bulk inventories. This helps customers meet urgent, sometimes life-saving, delivery requirements. 

“We have been a partner of UPS for over seven years,” said Dennis Ziganay, president and CEO of West Point Engineering. “Through this pandemic, we’ve been able to meet the demands of these challenging times … thanks to UPS.” 

With businesses needing a more agile and precise process in responding to the needs of the market and its customers, accessibility is key in responding to natural disasters around the globe.

“Exporters, SMEs and long-time partners like West Point Engineering are important contributors to the local economy. As they grow and expand, we listen to their changing supply chain requirements and cater to their needs,” said Chris Buono, managing director of UPS Philippines and Indonesia. 

 “Whether it’s one of the several natural calamities that occurred in the Philippines or an ongoing pandemic, UPS is committed to delivering what matters for our customers as they bounce back from a difficult year,” Buono ended. 

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Community banks a key resource for small businesses when crises arise

Community banks are an important source for small businesses when crises, like the COVID-19 pandemic, arise and business owners need to secure help quickly to continue paying their employees.

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With billions on the table for struggling small businesses, new research from the University of Florida Warrington College of Business finds that community banks are a critical source for helping these businesses keep their workforce employed during the pandemic through loan access.

“Smaller community banks have traditionally been an important source of funding for small businesses,” said Christopher James, William H. Dial/SunTrust Eminent Scholar and research author. “Community banks tend to be relationship lend­ers, characterized by local ownership, local control and local decision making. Relationship lenders had strong incentives to make… loans in order to preserve small business relationships in the face of the massive economic downturn caused the pandemic.”

In their research, James, Warrington Ph.D. student Jing Lu and Georgetown University Ph.D. student Yangfan Sun, find that community banks were able to respond faster to loan requests from small businesses as compared to larger banks. They also find that community banks made more loans per dollar of deposits than larger banks, particularly during the early stages of the pandemic.

“Community banks tend to specialize in lending based on close personal ties between the loan officer and the small business customer,” James said. “This type of lending requires providing branch managers with greater decision rights in making lending decisions. As a result, lenders at community banks were able to respond faster when the PPP was introduced.”

Consistent with community bank focus on small business lending and their faster implementation of lending, the authors find significantly more loans per small business in counties where community banks had higher market shares. More important, the authors find that higher levels of lending are associated with significantly fewer small business bankruptcies.

Overall, James, Lu and Sun’s research finds that community banks are an important source for small businesses when crises, like the COVID-19 pandemic, arise and business owners need to secure help quickly to continue paying their employees.

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Shopee launches #TatakPinoy virtual trade fair to support Filipino businesses

Shopee, the leading e-commerce platform in Southeast Asia and Taiwan, launches #TatakPinoy, a virtual trade fair geared towards supporting homegrown Filipino brands and micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs).

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Shopee, the leading e-commerce platform in Southeast Asia and Taiwan, launches #TatakPinoy, a virtual trade fair geared towards supporting homegrown Filipino brands and micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs). 

Shopee consistently advocates for the growth of local businesses. Amid the COVID-19 lockdown, which forced hundreds of Filipino businesses to close physical shops, Shopee supported over 1,000 sellers transitioning online through Shopee’s Seller Masterclasses and its partnerships with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and local government units. The initiatives helped Filipino entrepreneurs gain a basic understanding of e-commerce and digital marketing. Sellers were also able to master Shopee’s marketing tools, helping them achieve their maximum potential in e-commerce. 

To further strengthen support for local entrepreneurs, Shopee and DTI are set to launch the very first #TatakPinoy Virtual Trade Fair, a campaign that aims to promote products from Filipino brands and local MSMEs. From February 19 – 21, shoppers can discover local delicacies and pasalubong items, particularly those from Regions XII and IV-A, on Shopee. They can also buy products from Filipina-owned businesses, championed by Shopee and USAID’s partnership to empower local female entrepreneurs. 

In its statement, DTI’s Bureau of Domestic Trade Promotion announced, “The Department of Trade and Industry – Bureau of Domestic Trade Promotion is proud to be a partner for #TatakPinoy on Shopee. This initiative will connect thousands of consumers to more than a hundred MSMEs on one platform. We invite Filipinos from all over the country to patronize and take pride in products that are certified #TatakPinoy from the National Trade Fair Pop-up Store and Go Lokal! Shopee Mall.”

Martin Yu, Director at Shopee Philippines, said, “We strongly believe in the importance of uplifting homegrown entrepreneurs. From microbusinesses to SMEs, these local brands all contribute to the Philippine economy’s growth as a whole. Considering that most local businesses still can’t promote their products outside of online platforms due to the pandemic, Shopee also wants to create the opportunity to showcase the best Filipino brands. We will continue to spearhead campaigns that help reignite pride and demand for local products and drive the growth of the economy.”

Aside from discovering high-quality local craftsmanship and assisting local businesses in the process, shoppers can enjoy exclusive discounts up to 10% off on participating Filipino brands such as Colourette, Vice Cosmetics, and Human Nature. 

Shoppers can also enjoy more deals when they checkout using ShopeePay. For more information about the #TatakPinoy Virtual Trade Fair, visit https://shopee.ph/m/tatak-pinoy

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