Business sans Borders – A collaborative AI-driven global solutions hub to foster SME digitalisation

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The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) are partnering with six private sector partners to create a Proof of Concept (“POC”) hybrid business data and digital solutions hub. The initiative will leverage on Artificial Intelligence (AI) to facilitate the internationalisation and digitalisation of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (“SMEs”). The private sector partners are GlobalLinker¹, Mastercard, SAP, Yellow Pages and 99%SME (DBS Bank and SingTel).

  1. Known as Business sans Borders, this initiative aims to:
    (a) Provide a wide set of digital services and connections to enhance domestic and international trade opportunities for SMEs;
    (b) Promote interoperability between SME ecosystems²;
    (c) Facilitate quick and intuitive access in the provision of digital services (such as financial and professional services) with seamless integration; and
    (d) Provide a sandbox environment to accelerate testing and delivery of new services for SMEs.
  2. The following features will be developed and tested during the POC stage, by first quarter of 2019:(a) Multi-ecosystem sandbox, containing anonymised SME data, which can be used to initiate new trading opportunities or services through digital discovery;(b) Services App Store for the promotion of new and relevant services to SME ecosystems and SMEs; and(c) Smart AI Engine for the seamless matching of demand and supply of services and products between SMEs across various SME ecosystems.
  3. The partners recognise that while SMEs are the core pillars of most economies, SMEs face considerable friction and challenges in achieving quick and seamless access to cross-border trade opportunities and financial services. Concurrently, solution providers with innovative and relevant SME solutions – ranging from logistics, professional services, financing or payments – face challenges in reaching out to these SMEs. The POC aims to provide a platform to address these challenges and bridge the gaps.
  4. The POC will also seek further involvement from interested startups as well as established industry players in developing technical frameworks and potential governance structures for the exchange of anonymised SME data.
  5. Sopnendu Mohanty, Chief FinTech Officer, MAS said “SMEs are an under-tapped source for considerable economic growth in many countries. Business sans Borders aims to ignite a sea change in the way SMEs around the world can easily connect digitally with each other. This pioneering hybrid data and solutions hub will be supported by innovative and relevant financial services and powered with self-learning artificial intelligence. We are confident that Business sans Borders will positively transform economies and propagate financial inclusion through ASEAN and beyond.”
  6. Tan Kiat How, Chief Executive, IMDA said, “IMDA champions the digitalisation of businesses so they can better seize exciting opportunities in the digital economy. In particular, digital technologies and platforms enable SMEs which are a core segment of our economies to overcome traditional barriers of market entry and reach. This joint initiative to explore cross-border data flows and services has the potential to give our SMEs a digital advantage in the global marketplace and discover new trading opportunities.”
  7. Claus Andresen, Managing Director, South East Asia, SAP, “SAP is proud to participate as a strategic partner of MAS and IMDA in this collaboration. We look forward to leveraging our innovative technologies to help SMEs drive their intelligent enterprise transformation. Through this collaboration, we aim to enable greater levels of procurement across enterprises of all sizes and help drive economic growth in the local community. To date, more than 80% of SAP’s customers are SMEs. SAP serve customers in 180 countries, across 25 industries. SAP is committed to supporting every customer to become a best-run business. Together, we help the world run better and improve people’s lives.”
  8. Ari Sarker, Co-President Asia Pacific, Mastercard, said “Mastercard has been actively driving digital inclusion across our stakeholder set globally. In particular, we recognise that SMEs face significant headwinds in terms of understanding and integrating technology to grow and scale, efficiently and effectively. And we have responded in a number of ways, working closely with governments and businesses, to reduce the friction that SMEs grapple with. Beyond the foundational support that we are already providing, we have also recently, adopted a more integrated approach to helping SMEs digitize their supply chains. For example, we recently launched Mastercard TRACKTM – a B2B trade platform that simplifies, digitises and enhances access of SMEs to global markets – which is available in Singapore through the Networked Trade Platform (NTP). Our involvement with MAS in the Business sans Borders offering is an important extension of our considerable footprint in enabling SMEs to really be the engines of growth for their economies and countries.”
  9. Joyce Tee, DBS Group Head of SME Banking, said “To help SMEs thrive in the new digital economy, they need forward-looking programmes like Business sans Borders to help them identify new opportunities, expand beyond their home market and connect with other SMEs in the region. DBS is excited to be a key partner of this programme, and we look forward to developing the Proof of Concept with MAS and IMDA. Given DBS’ strong regional connectivity, award-winning data-driven initiatives and extensive ecosystem network, we believe we can help local SMEs take their business to the global stage. From next month, SMEs can also leverage our B2B e-marketplace platform on the 99%SME platform. The platform serves as a launchpad for SMEs to sell their goods and services to large corporates and MNCs, where they can benefit from supply chain connections, financing, and payment solutions that are typically open to larger companies.”
  10. Andrew Lim, Managing Director, Business Group at Singtel said “With digital disruptions becoming ever more pervasive, there’s an urgent need for SMEs to transform their businesses and thrive in the new economy. As Asia’s leading communications technology group, Singtel is pleased to play a key role in this partnership with the MAS and IMDA to help SMEs digitalise. Our large SME customer base has given us deep understanding of their needs, which we are able to address with our extensive suite of digital solutions. We can leverage our experience and capabilities to develop the unique Business sans Borders digital data and solutions hub to help SMEs buy from, or sell to, other SMEs in Singapore and the region easily and securely. The platform can also complement the 99%SME movement, an initiative which Singtel founded with other corporate partners, to help SMEs in Singapore go online and venture into e-commerce.”
  11. Sameer Vakil, Co-founder & CEO, GlobalLinker said “GlobalLinker is committed to make the business growth of Small & Medium Enterprises globally simpler, more profitable and enjoyable. Business sans Borders is a very strong complement in achieving this vision. While we are offering a wide spectrum of services to SMEs, we have felt a strong need for specialist value-added services from committed organisations. Similarly, we are happy to collaborate with complementary networks to provide cross-network opportunities to our SME members. We are entirely committed to the objective Business sans Borders seeks to serve and feel privileged to be part of the founding team of this great initiative.”
  12. Ng Tiong Gee, Chairman, Yellow Pages, said ““Yellow Pages is excited about collaborating with MAS and IMDA on this initiative. We strongly believe that this synergy will help us add value to our SME customers. This service will also level the playing field for the smaller SMEs in enabling them to expand their reach beyond Singapore.”

¹ GlobalLinker, operated by Digivation Pte Ltd, is a multi-nation SME networking solutions platform.
² Examples include GlobalLinker, Yellow Pages and 99%SME.

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