How big businesses in Singapore are managing the challenges of coronavirus

The coronavirus pandemic has thrown into sharp focus the position of authorities in supporting the economic system during times of crises.

But it has additionally highlighted the position big enterprise can play.

Look at Singapore. As the Asia-Pacific headquarters for a lot of main companies, the nation has lengthy invested in enterprise stability whilst geopolitical tensions flare globally. So when a spike in Covid-19 circumstances threatened to tip that equilibrium, authorities moved shortly, asserting greater than $73 billion in stimulus — with the newest top-up simply final week.

The manufacturing, retail, enterprise companies, and finance industries are some of largest contributors to Singapore’s GDP.


Yet, regardless of weathering its first recession since 2009, some multinationals from the nation’s main industries have managed to seek out alternatives to forge forward. From main disaster aid efforts to supporting different corporations, CNBC Make It seems at how companies from Singapore’s manufacturing, banking and expertise sectors have supported that effort to revive the economic system. 

Responding in disaster

During the top of the pandemic, manufacturing — Singapore’s largest trade by nominal GDP — was the solely sector to develop, increasing 2.5% as demand for biomedical items surged

We made the acutely aware resolution to take a position in further capability for the subsequent pandemic.

Kevin McGuigan

managing director for Southeast Asia, 3M

Manufacturer 3M utilized classes from the 2003 SARS (extreme acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak to run its manufacturing traces 24/7 and double world manufacturing of N95 respirators. 

“We made the conscious decision to invest in additional capacity for the next pandemic,” Kevin McGuigan, managing director for Southeast Asia, instructed CNBC Make It.

At the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, manufacturing of N95 respirators was ramped as much as 24/7 at 3M’s world manufacturing facilities.


In the first half of 2020, 3M produced greater than 800 million respirators worldwide, whilst border closures threatened to disrupt output. It labored with native authorities in Singapore — house of the firm’s Asia-Pacific headquarters — to maintain the enterprise shifting and domestically rehouse employees who usually commuted day by day from neighboring Malaysia

Supporting different businesses

As with any economic system, you may discover the SMEs are the bedrock.

Tse Koon Shee

group govt, Singapore nation head, DBS

That included measures to ease money move constraints for Singapore’s greater than 270,000 small-and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

SMEs account for 99% of businesses in Singapore and 72% of the workforce. During the peak of the outbreak, DBS — Southeast Asia’s largest financial institution — made $3.5 billion in short-term bridging loans to maintain many of them going. Of these, round 9 in 10 (87%) have been made to small and micro-enterprises. 

In the first half of the yr, DBS, Southeast Asia’s largest lender, offered round $3.5 in short-term bridging loans to help small and medium-sized businesses.


“As with any economy, you’ll find the SMEs are the bedrock. They, first and foremost, are responsible for a lot of the economic activities of a country, and therefore they also employ many people,” stated Tse Koon Shee, DBS’s group govt and nation head for Singapore.

New methods of working

The altering financial panorama caused by the pandemic additionally accelerated developments in expertise, as folks and businesses have tailored to new methods of working, together with shifting operations on-line.

That’s one thing Microsoft has been serving to with from its Asia-Pacific headquarters in Singapore, by its merchandise corresponding to Microsoft Teams and Azure cloud computing.

We say we have seen two years of digital transformation in two months because of this of Covid.

Fiona Carney

chief working officer, Microsoft APAC

“We say we’ve seen two years of digital transformation in two months as a result of Covid,” stated Fiona Carney, chief working officer at Microsoft APAC.

From March to May, use of Microsoft Teams rose 500% in the Asia-Pacific area, as businesses, instructional establishments and governments moved to make money working from home amid nationwide lockdowns, in keeping with Carney. In a number of circumstances, the firm needed to roll out new programs for purchasers in lower than 48 hours.

Use of distant communication platform Microsoft Teams rose round 500% throughout the top of the coronavirus pandemic.


DBS recorded a 30% year-on-year enhance in adoption of its digital banking companies in the first half of 2020, as folks appeared for brand new methods to conduct private enterprise on-line. The financial institution now has 3.four million digital customers, practically a 3rd (29%) of whom it serves totally on-line.

Meanwhile, McGuigan stated working 3M’s programs 24/7 has helped the firm discover new methods to extend productiveness. 

Rebuilding an economic system

Though many of the latest tech developments got here out of necessity, such speedy digitization may assist fast-track the financial restoration of Singapore and the area.

It’s elementary adjustments in their enterprise fashions … and I do not suppose they’ll return.

Fiona Carney

chief working officer, Microsoft APAC

A research early this yr from Cisco and advisory agency IDC estimated that by 2024, the digital transformation of small and medium-sized businesses in Asia Pacific may add $2.6 trillion to $3.1 trillion to the area’s GDP. And that was earlier than the pandemic. 

Singapore has invested closely in digitization inside the private and non-private sectors for years, however many businesses have prevented going the digital route. Microsoft’s Carney stated that resistance is diminishing “across every industry.”

The digital transformation of Asia Pacific’s small and medium-sized businesses may add between $2.6 trillion and $3.1 trillion to the area’s GDP by 2024, in keeping with a research by Cisco and IDC.


“In some cases, it might be more in keeping their data secure and getting it to the cloud,” stated Carney. “Then in others, it’s fundamental changes in their business models so that they can actually prepare for the future. And I don’t think they will go back.” 

Bringing society alongside

As corporations navigate the adjustments introduced by the pandemic, nonetheless, in addition they say they’ve an essential position to play in bringing the neighborhood together with them.

“We are going to have to be so agile and continue to work with local experts and government to understand what is changing in the landscape,” stated McGuigan.

The cause we have been began fifty-odd years in the past was to facilitate the growth of Singapore.

Tse Koon Shee

group govt, Singapore nation head, DBS

For Microsoft, that is a matter of utilizing its pool of employment information from its merchandise, corresponding to networking service LinkedIn, to assist put together residents for a brand new future. Already the firm has pledged to supply free coaching to 25 million folks this yr to equip them with in-demand digital abilities.

“Ultimately what we are trying to do is support people by identifying trends and knowing where the next generation of roles and jobs with be,” stated Carney.

DBS, by its Stronger Together Fund, forges a sequence of social initiatives, together with partnering employees with at-risk seniors for social periods.


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