Platform can help Singapore SMEs access China buyers

OneSME aims to spur cross-border trade between businesses in both countries

Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information and National Development Sim Ann speaking with QSS managing director Simon Quek Hong Kiat at the launch of OneSME yesterday. Also present were Infocomm Media Development Authority assistant
Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information and National Development Sim Ann speaking with QSS managing director Simon Quek Hong Kiat at the launch of OneSME yesterday. Also present were Infocomm Media Development Authority assistant chief executive, sectoral transformation, Jane Lim (second from left) and OneConnect chief executive for South-east Asia Tan Bin Ru.PHOTO: ONECONNECT FINANCIAL TECHNOLOGY

Mr Simon Quek Hong Kiat was hoping to expand his firm's business to China this year, but the Covid-19 pandemic scuppered his plans.

"Travel restrictions have stopped me from meeting potential customers directly," said the managing director of QSS, which sells safety products such as personal protective equipment.

A cross-border trade platform called OneSME, however, is set to put him back on the path to expanding into the world's second-largest economy.

At the launch of OneSME yesterday, Mr Quek noted that it will allow his firm access to a buyer base of four million small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in China that are on OneConnect Financial Technology's YiQiYe platform.

Mr Quek's company is one of 50 Singapore firms on board OneSME as of yesterday.

OneConnect chief executive for South-east Asia Tan Bin Ru expects 100 Singapore companies to be on OneSME by the year end.

OneSME is developed and operated by OneConnect, whose parent company is China's insurance giant Ping An Group.

"We are slow to ramp it up... We want to take time to ramp it up because it is important to find the correct value," Ms Tan said, referring to ways that OneSME can better serve buyers and sellers.

A survey of 2,100 Chinese SMEs on YiQiYe in July showed that most of them want to buy goods from Singapore, particularly for items in the food and beverage sector and industrial equipment.

Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information and National Development Sim Ann, who launched the platform, urged local SMEs that want to expand into China to be part of OneSME.

"To give our SMEs a head start, OneSME will proactively match local sellers... This matching is at no cost to both buyers and sellers during this initial period," she said.

OneSME - an investment by OneConnect and the Republic's Infocomm Media Development Authority - is also part of the Singapore-China (Shenzhen) Smart City Initiative, under which memorandums of understanding were signed in June to grant companies and entrepreneurs easier access to opportunities in the Greater Bay Area and South-east Asia digitally.

United Overseas Bank (UOB) group business banking head Lawrence Loh said that expanding into overseas markets can be an expensive and complex task for many companies, especially small businesses.

UOB will be offering banking and digital solutions through OneSME, including collections and payments, trade financing and working capital needs, through a memorandum of understanding between the lender and OneConnect.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 29, 2020, with the headline 'Platform can help S'pore SMEs access China buyers'. Print Edition | Subscribe