SMEs in five Southeast Asian (SEA) markets, that being Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam, are counting on the benefits of technology to help weather the storm of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a recent survey conducted by United Overseas Bank (UOB), Accenture, and Dun & Bradstreet.

The research was conducted in order to understand how SMEs were adapting to the new business environment as the threat of COVID-19 subsides. Of the over 1,000respondents, up to 64 percent of them rank technology as the top investment priority in 2020.

Despite up to 88 percent of SMEs having lowered their revenue expectations in 2020, up to 44 percent still plan to increase their overall technology budget. This suggests that SEA SMEs are thinking ahead, rather than looking to just solve immediate problems and are set on adopting technology to improve their competitiveness and sustainability.

SMEs across SEA are already recognising technology as a means of ensuring a more sustainable business model. Some 81 percent of small businesses across the region ranked the use of digital solutions as their most preferred cash flow management method.

“Having had to cope with the disruption to their operations as a result of COVID-19, many of these firms realised quickly that technology can make all the difference to their business,” says Lawrence Loh, head of group business banking at UOB.

“Whether in revising their business models or even transforming their operations, small businesses are responding to the changes brought about by the pandemic by turning to technology to ensure their long-term viability and competitiveness,” he adds.

“Small businesses that focus on their digital transformation to become more agile and future-proof should see a rapid payback. These investments in technology will be essential because small businesses are the bedrock for countries in the region and also our growth engine, so the rebound of SMEs post-COVID-19 will be fundamental for a speedy recovery of ASEAN economies,” says Divyesh Vithlani, who leads Accenture’s financial services practice in Southeast Asia.

“While ASEAN small businesses are facing current challenges brought about by COVID-19, we can see that they are still taking practical steps to increase their business’ resilience to prepare for the future. Firms which transform their business models for the long-term, even after COVID-19, will be better poised to tide through these current challenges and to create new business opportunities,” says Audrey Chia, CEO at Dun & Bradstreet Singapore.


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