Business survival insights from homegrown SMEs


Maxis Business introduces web series to help small businesses excel in the new normal

THE small-medium enterprise (SME) sector was especially affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. And with a potential prolonged economic recession ahead, there’s no exact “expiration date” per se as to when the pandemic will end.

In this new normal, businesses from all industries have had to deal with slow digital migration, limited financials, labour shortages and smaller profit margins.

With these new pain points, there needs to be a sustainable business strategy for businesses as they move into the post-Covid landscape.

That said, there are businesses who have managed to survive and even thrive beyond the pandemic.

Maxis Business is introducing a new series of webisodes starting March 7, titled Spark Let’s Talk whereby bourgeoning small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) and established industry players will share their key strategies and the steps they took to ensure the longevity of their businesses.

Moderating the exchanges are actress and TV host Julie Woon alongside Maxis Business SME segment head Kevin Lee.

Let’s Talk is an addition to Maxis Business Spark – an umbrella programme designed to equip businesses with the right tools and knowledge to tackle industry changes in various sectors.

For Maxis Business, their goal is to support SMEs in their digitalisation journey through their business solutions such as e-commerce, digital marketing, IoT and cloud solutions, alongside technical support expertise.

When you think about strategies, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Different SMEs have different needs and Let’s Talk provides SMEs with unique insights and perspectives that will help them form their own strategies and tactics should they face similar pain points.

If anything, the pandemic has taught SMEs and corporations alike valuable lessons in embracing disruptions and using them to their advantage in this post-pandemic landscape.

So, what kind of new challenges would these budding businesses be facing? To answer that question, one of the major challenges SMEs have faced emerging in the post-Covid landscape is growing their business.

A taste of success

Tealive chief executive officer Bryan Loo.Tealive chief executive officer Bryan Loo.

Tealive chief executive officer Bryan Loo said that it’s doubly important to offer omni-channel options to consumers in the new normal.

Big or small, grande or venti, the food and beverage industry (F&B) has been one of the mainstays in the small-medium enterprise sector.

The first webisode, Going with What Tastes Right, has Tealive CEO Bryan Loo and myBurgerLab co-founder Chin RenYi discussing strategies head-to-head on how to tackle problems unique to F&B players.

In this premiere episode too, Loo also shares how Tealive is able to survive all by building a tea-drinking culture and expanding their brand.

myBurgerLab co-founder Chin RenYi.myBurgerLab co-founder Chin RenYi.

“We found we could curate a cult that loved the philosophy behind our burgers”, shared myBurgerLab co-founder Chin RenYi.

As for Chin, myBurgerLab has curated a loyal customer base and has been slowly and steadily expanding their brand despite shifts in consumer habits due to the previous movement control orders.

With increased demand in food delivery too, restaurateurs must rethink certain approaches to establish an online delivery presence. If they offered take-away previously, they might need to consider curb-side pickups for the future.

Family matters

BMS Organics chief executive officer Terry Lee.BMS Organics chief executive officer Terry Lee.

“As the youngest family member, I had to prove myself to gain the trust of my three older brothers to run the business smoothly,” shared Terry.

The second instalment, Let’s Talk, Building the Family Legacy, discusses the challenges and boons of having a family-run business, and the hurdles unique to them.

Sharing their experiences are BMS Organics chief executive officer Terry Lee, and MAMEE-Double Decker group executive director Pierre Pang.

Kevin Lee also shares his experience with the challenges he has come across and what he has gone through with other family businesses in his seven years heading Maxis Business SME segment.

In this episode, viewers can get the scoop on family-run SMEs in their first or second generation and the struggles they go through when it comes to implementing new strategies.

MAMEE-Double Decker group executive director Pierre Pang.MAMEE-Double Decker group executive director Pierre Pang.

According to Pang, trust and communication had been instilled in him by his grandfather as part of his family values and that has translated into effective discussions during business meetings.

From farm to table

Farm Fresh chief executive officer and founder Loi Tuan Ee.Farm Fresh chief executive officer and founder Loi Tuan Ee.

Loi realised that while sales channels like malls and restaurants had been affected by Covid-19 in the first lockdown, other avenues like supermarkets saw a surge.

Many success-hungry up-and-coming entrepreneurs usually see expansion as the gold-standard for a successful business, but there is no wrong or right way to do it as the webisodes will show.

The third episode titled From Production to Consumption covers how Covid-19 has disrupted global supply chains and distribution channels for companies worldwide.

Audiences can learn from Farm Fresh chief executive officer and founder Loi Tuan Ee, and Nelson’s Group founder Datuk Seri Nelson Kwok.

To tackle rising costs, Farm Fresh has employed a multi-channel distribution model that addresses different consumer markets, and comprises large format retailers, restaurants, convenience marts and even home dealers.

Nelson’s Group founder Datuk Seri Nelson Kwok.Nelson’s Group founder Datuk Seri Nelson Kwok.

“In the last couple of years, the pandemic has made us shift our business model,” said Kwok in the webisode.

While Farm Fresh has their own dairy farms, Nelson’s went in the other direction with a franchise model.

“We used to export a lot of our products. But since the pandemic affected global supply chains, we’ve had to look at diversifying our avenues through supermarkets, convenience stores and even online channels to sustain our business,” shared Kwok.

Innovation, as audiences will see, is one way to establish your business in a competitive market.

Material success

Oxwhite founder CK Changr.Oxwhite founder CK Changr.

Changr believes that online marketing has been a key strategy to the brand’s success.

Finally, the webisode concludes with its fourth instalment on the fashion industry.

Titled The Right Fit in the New Normal, this webisode has Pestle & Mortar (PMC) co-founder and chief vision officer Hugh Koh and Oxwhite founder CK Changr lending their expertise to the topic.

With two differing approaches – Oxwhite’s luxury at an affordable price and PMC’s trendier and time-limited collaborations – both have managed to carve a place in the fashion market.

Is your SME more like Oxwhite which uses the pre-order model to cut excessive costs involving retailing, distributing, inventory and production?

Or is it more like PMC’s streetwear which leverages collaborations with names like Acer, Ultraman, Pepsi, Milo, Royal Selangor, Looney Tunes, Oppo, and even graffiti artists like Kenji Chai?

Either way, SMEs need to identify their strengths and weaknesses before deploying a branding strategy or even sales approach so that all parties involved understand their responsibilities clearly.

Pestle & Mortar (PMC) co-founder and chief vision officer Hugh Koh.Pestle & Mortar (PMC) co-founder and chief vision officer Hugh Koh.

According to Koh, PMC speaks to a group of customers who are digital savvy and that are constantly in-tune with different and new technology advancements.

All the webisodes delve into questions other SMEs have sent in for the guests to answer. The idea isn’t to preach; instead it’s to unearth lessons and learn from each others’ experiences, and “spark” a conversation as its namesake goes.

If you’re looking for relatable advice and practical suggestions from people directly involved in their industries, the Spark Let’s Talk webisodes will be able to give you the keys to create a successful business.

Webisodes will cover different industry sectors too, so stay tuned for more.

> Episode 1: Going with What Tastes Right

> Episode 2: Building the Family Legacy

> Episode 3: From Production to Consumption

> Episode 4: The Right Fit in the New Normal

You can catch the webisodes here.

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