This was first published in The Business Times on 24 March 2021
By Jonathan Ho, Head of Private Enterprise, KPMG in Singapore
The adage ‘rough waters make skillful sailors’ has seldom been more relevant than in the turbulent aftermath of the pandemic. Although COVID-19 set off a chain of risk events globally, such as logistics and supply chain issues, reduced spending and investments, there also emerged a plethora of new possibilities for business transformation, digitalisation and expansion.
As technology permeates almost every aspect of our lives, enterprises have had to quickly pivot to digital business models and develop sustainable strategies to stay competitive and meet customer expectations in the new reality of lockdowns and social distancing.
Over the past 26 years, around 660 local businesses have been recognised and celebrated for their outstanding achievements through the annual Enterprise 50 (E50) Awards. The theme for the 2020 E50 Awards was ‘Extraordinary times, Exceptional resilience’, and the winners truly exemplified the tenacity, entrepreneurial zeal and ingenuity of Singapore’s homegrown enterprises.
Going forward, the seas will remain rough, even as the fiercest economic storm of our lifetimes gradually recedes. What can enterprises do to prosper in 2021 and beyond?
As the new post-pandemic reality unfolds, KPMG in Singapore proposes that enterprises adopt a 3R framework to Reimagine their transformation journeys, Re-plan their strategies to adapt to the rapidly evolving business landscape and Recreate their businesses through sustainable models to shape Singapore’s future as the global Asia node for technology, innovation and entrepreneurship.
The first step of the 3R journey for enterprises would be to reimagine their businesses and drive transformation through continued digitalisation and the adoption of sustainable and innovative business models. At the same time, organisations will have to manage cost pressures and the need to right skill, upskill and reskill their workforce in the new borderless digital economy.
Omni-Plus System Pte Ltd, the recipient of the Special Recognition – Enterprise Transformation Award, is an exemplar of the transformational potential for local enterprises. With business operations across Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines and China, Omni-Plus System distributes polymer products — plastic resins, magnetic materials and medical peripherals — from the world's leading manufacturers and offers material management services to complement the planning and logistics of its customers.
“We are constantly transforming to remain agile, competitive, and future-ready. To always be ready and expect the unexpected is in our corporate DNA. During the pandemic, our strategy was to prepare our systems and people to emerge stronger,” said Mr. Daryl Neo, Corporate Planning and Strategy Manager of Omni-Plus System.
Mr. Neo stressed on the importance of recognising that people are at the heart of enterprise transformations. “Prior to the pandemic, we collaborated with Singapore Polytechnic to conduct a training and needs analysis for every employee. This helped to identify their strengths and areas to focus on to grow together with the company.”
As the business landscape evolves, enterprises need to upgrade their capabilities and find new ways of working to re-invent themselves. Singapore’s ‘Emerging Stronger Together’ 2021 Budget not only unlocks capital for businesses at various stages of growth, but also presents a blueprint for resetting the jobs and skills landscape.
“We tapped on government support and our network of partners to provide our employees with the necessary upskilling and cross skilling materials and trainings,” Mr. Neo added.
The second prong of the 3R framework requires enterprises to re-plan their strategies as they build new skills and capabilities while reconfiguring their supply chains. The pandemic exposed our global interdependencies, as supply chains came under immense pressure. One key learning was that we need to reconfigure and diversify supply chains, fostering responsiveness and resilience from the ground up.
We can take a cue from Legend Logistics Ltd, winner of the Special Recognition – Internationalisation Award. Founded in 2012, Legend Logistics is a one-stop logistics provider for heavy haulage, bulk liquid, dry commodities, perishable products and oversized cargos. With 11 regional offices in eight countries, Legend Logistics has grown into one of the most diversified transportation companies in Asia and the Oceania.
“Amidst mounting COVID-19 pressures, Legend Logistics has continued to grow through the challenges. We have sped up our internationalisation processes and established new offices in Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia in 2020. For this year, we will be entrenching our presence into four more locations: the Netherlands, China, Middle East and Pakistan,” said Mr. CK Than, Group CEO of Legend Logistics.
Internationalisation has helped the company to continue to build its brand globally, while strengthening engagement with stakeholders, and bringing services closer to customers through an entrenched local presence, he said.
“Another key strategy is vertically integrating our business downstream providing container feeder, depot and container trucking services to offer an integrated suite of value-added services to our customers,” Mr. Than added.
The third focus area for enterprises would be to recreate their businesses for long-term success through sustainable and agile strategies. One of the few silver linings of the pandemic has been the awakening of the world’s response to climate change, and a deeper understanding of our impact on our planet. Aiming to accelerate Singapore’s ascent as a green hub, Budget 2021 intensified the focus on climate change and technology adoption.
Over the years, landscaping company Mao Sheng Quanji Construction has displayed a strong commitment to embedding the idea of environmental sustainability into its designs and solutions. Featuring in the E50 list for the past five years, Mao Sheng Quanji won the Special Recognition – Five-Year Award for its consistent track record of creating landscapes that embody Singapore’s development as a Green Economy.
“As we help our clients build more greenery into their urban spaces, we are increasing the overall wellness of the environment and making the city more liveable. Plants make people happy and in the long-term help to mitigate many pressing climate challenges,” said Mr. Choo Jun Wei, Executive Director of Mao Sheng Quanji.
As Singapore strives to lay the foundations of an economy that is both green and smart, the theme for the 2021 Awards is ‘Innovating for a Sustainable Future’, highlighting the need to forge new avenues of growth through creative, agile, digital and sustainable strategies.
“At Mao Sheng Quanji, we are constantly seeking new ways to use plants for different purposes like creating therapeutic landscapes and edible gardens. The future of landscaping would be the use of advance technology coupled with biophilic landscape design principles to create a more sustainable environment,” Mr. Choo added.
Mr. Neo at Omni-Plus System also underlines the importance of sustainability as a core value of his company. “We’re always seeking ways to enhance sustainability and reduce carbon footprint. We have partnered with core customers, research and higher learning institutes to invest in the development of sustainable materials. Reflecting our commitment towards sustainable development, we’re branching into biopolymers. Another example of our sustainable agenda can be seen at our new plant in Malaysia, where our project team is looking at how to implement process controls for resources such as energy, water etc.”
As the contours of the post-crisis world emerge, small-and medium-sized enterprises will be key catalysts of growth for Singapore. At KPMG, the 3R framework underpins our commitment to putting resources behind local enterprises in their efforts to digitalise, innovate, and scale as they navigate the challenges of today to build a better tomorrow.