Having an online presence is now just as important, if not even more important than having boots on the ground. COVID-19 has brought about border closures and widespread movement control orders, forcing companies to rethink operational expectations and norms. Those that fail to adapt quickly will likely see significant losses; or at worst, bankruptcy.

“It certainly has been a big setback in terms of the internationalisation process, but it also depends on how deep you already are in the internationalisation journey,” says Ng Siew Quan, Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) Asia Pacific leader, entrepreneurial and private business.

Businesses that have already begun their digitalisation and internationalisation journey may find themselves in a much better position than those that have not, despite the mayhem that is being caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

But what is interesting is how COVID-19 has forced people to start looking at how they can operate and even open markets remotely. The push towards digitalisation is proving equally important for a sector not usually associated with it.

Diaan-Yi Lin, who leads McKinsey and Company’s Singapore office, points to a survey of Asia manufacturers the consultancy conducted which found that one in three cited challenges with worker unavailability during the pandemic.

With a lack of manpower causing a bottleneck in productivity, manufacturers have found that fast-tracking automation programmes to make up for the lack on workers is definitely helping. In addition, many manufacturers have also cited remote collaboration technologies as a major factor in business continuity.

“More advanced solutions like wearable technologies for remote assistance, predictive algorithms for maintenance, or dashboards that enable remote monitoring of factory performance also help relieve constraints on worker availability,” added Yi Lin.

Both PwC and McKinsey have been supporting local enterprises picked for Enterprise Singapore’s (ESG) Scale-up SG initiative. The 2.5 year programme has seen two intakes of businesses; the consultancies have supported over 20 companies each.

“Companies will have to go beyond basic digitalisation efforts and look at more sophisticated technologies that will set them apart,” says Ted Tan, ESG’s deputy chief executive.


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