(Photo Centre) Mr Anish Mathew Samuel, Director of UAL Biotech Pte. Ltd.

Crisis in Food Security and Climate Change

Food security and climate change are two of the greatest challenges faced by humanity today.

According to the Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks (1990 to 2020) published by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, food production is one of the largest emitters of nitrous oxide; a greenhouse gas (GHG) that is about 300 times more powerful than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere.

Most of these nitrous oxide emissions are the result of the use of chemical fertilisers in the agriculture sector to enhance yield of crops. However, this may accelerate the process of global warming at the same time.

The Balance Between Food Production and the Environment

UAL Bio-Innovations (UAL) offer sustainable alternate technologies in the areas of agriculture, aquaculture, and animal farming to completely replace antibiotics and hazardous chemicals that either pollute environment or emit GHGs. Current practices sometimes led people to believe antibiotics and hazardous chemicals are vital towards the production yield of various food systems and that it is a difficult choice between increasing food production and balancing environment/ climate change.

However, UAL’s mission is to ensure that organic food is safe, affordable, and accessible to the common man, while mitigating climate change challenges.

Up to current, UAL has successfully developed and replaced the use of antibiotics and chemical fertilisers with sustainable alternatives, in a revolutionary feat to balance and maintain cost and yield in organic farming.

The Need for Change and Lack of Funding

The primary challenge faced by UAL at the start was the lack of support by investors and clients and the lack of awareness in the community. Other challenges include difficulty in developing new technologies, the uncertainty of success and the lack of funding for the project. The lack of talent and funds required UAL to think out of the box to resolve these pressing issues.

Once the technology gradually developed, the taking-to-market also had many inherent issues such as government regulations, changing the mindset of farmers/ corporates who were reluctant to change and at the same time keeping the company solvent by managing expenditure with cash flow.

The initial motivation to enter the business was profit and value creation. However, as time passes and a better understanding of the issues and the importance of the work UAL is doing surfaces, the business turned into a passionate goal for many.

Leaning Into the Resource of SME Centre@SICCI

Through media and word-of-mouth, UAL heard about the various government support schemes for local SMEs. Thus, the company contacted SME Centre@SICCI for guidance on how to tap onto these resources.

When Business Development Advisor, Ms Deepa D/O Suppiah came onboard, they were encouraged to see the interest taken by our advisor in understanding their business needs. Ms Deepa explained in detail the possible grants UAL could tap on to enable the initiatives they were trying to achieve in various aspects of the business.

Afterwards, UAL was able to map out different support schemes they could access to expedite their expansion plans by applying for a grant which would enable UAL to build and maintain a digital platform. This allows access to clients in the farming industry, along with traceability of inputs, and would allow them to generate carbon credits for the clients. It also enables UAL to create a marketplace for sustainable farm produce.

UAL has also applied for international expansion grant which enables them to set up and start operations in the Philippines. They are currently waiting for the approval of the grant and the company expects the impact of these initiatives to be tremendous.

Advice For SMEs Facing Similar Challenges

How do SMEs facing similar challenges find a way to break through from their difficulties then?

UAL suggested the first step is to get in touch with the SME Centres. Every SME who reached out to the SME Centres will have a Business Advisor appointed to work along with them as a team to explore and guide them in structuring and growing their business.

In 2022, UAL is one of the recipients of the 25th Steward Leadership Award for their bio-innovation for food security and sustainability initiative. The award was presented by Stewardship Asia Centre, an establishment by Temasek Holdings that assist businesses, investors and government leaders develop initiatives that integrate the needs of stakeholders, society, future generations, and the environment.

Holistic Healing and Medical Wellness: A Medical Network’s Mission to Improve Patient’s Well-being – SME Centre@SICCI

Crystal Chan

(Photo) Founding Director of Precision First Pte. Ltd. (previously known as Precision Urology Pte. Ltd.), Dr Chong KT (in stripe sweater), who is also the founding Director of Surgi-TEN Specialists Pte. Ltd. and Asia MD Pte. Ltd., holding an appreciation gift with Professor Dr Bannakij Lojanapiwat (in the blue blazer), Dean of the Faculty of Medicine (Chiang Mai University, Thailand) for their future collaborations.

A Mission to Improve Patients’ Well-Being

Precision First Pte. Ltd. (previously known as Precision Urology Pte. Ltd.) is a healthcare consulting company based in Singapore that aims to build up a network that connects medical and healthcare professionals, healthcare services, and the public community to patients.

Precision First understands that many patients are concerned about the expensive medical bills needed for post-treatment rehabilitation and recovery, especially after spending quite a sum on hospital treatments and surgery.

Therefore, Precision First came up with plans to expand into overseas locations so that more patients can enjoy medical wellness programmes that are both reliable and inexpensive. The programme’s objective is to allow patients to improve their well-being through holistic healing and mental wellness after medical treatments.

The Uncertain Road Ahead

In the beginning, Precision First was uncertain about their business direction or even the various assistance they are eligible for in their overseas expansion plans. They were troubled about the obstacles and limitations of their market penetration strategies.

However, that changed when Precision First’s founder, Dr Chong KT was referred by an associate to SME Centre@SICCI‘s Senior Business Advisor, Mr Mike Krishnan.

After Dr Chong had a thorough discussion with Mike, the company was encouraged by Mike’s feedback and viewpoint on the overseas expansion of clinical services. Precision First was pleased with Mike’s excellent in-depth knowledge and vital business acumen that provided the company with confidence in their first overseas venture.

Reflecting on the positive ethos of the SME Centre, Mike was also outstanding in highlighting key strengths and weaknesses of the company’s internationalisation toolkit that seeks to support its regional expansion and market penetration plans.

Successful Grant Application and Venture into Overseas Markets

With Mike’s assistance, Precision First submitted an application for the Market Readiness Assistance (MRA) grant to Enterprise Singapore in preparation for their overseas expansion into Thailand market.

In March 2023, Precision First’s MRA grant was approved and they launched their medical wellness programme in Thailand called “Doctor Heals”.

“Doctor Heals” is an initiative conducted in collaboration with selected surgeons, medical specialists and medical doctors in Thailand. It hopes to improve holistic recovery for patients who have undergone medical treatments.

With the help of the MRA grant, Precision First’s goal of helping more patients from Southeast Asian countries became more concrete.

Being an SME, Precision First noted that overseas expansion plans are difficult without the confidence and knowledge provided by Enterprise Singapore and SME Centres. The support rendered enabled them to further their reach overseas, which could have been hindered tremendously by the high level of costs.

Positive Outlook for the Future

With positive re-enforcement and guidance from Enterprise, another of Precision First’s work partners, Asia MD Pte. Ltd. is also planning for expansion into the Chinese market.

Looking back, if the challenges and concerns were left unresolved, Precision First would have delayed their plans and missed plenty of opportunities that were available. The company was very happy to have Mike’s assistance in this and to have received the approval for their MRA grant.

Precision First hoped that more companies could benefit from the experience and encouragement of Enterprise Singapore and SME Centres.

About Surgi-TEN Specialists and Asia MD

Besides Precision First, Dr Chong KT is also managing two other healthcare companies. One of them is Surgi-TEN Specialists Pte. Ltd., a one-stop surgical clinic in Singapore that employs specialists from more than 10 sub-specialities. The surgeons’ expertise ranges from brain surgery, orthopaedics, plastic surgery, gynaecology, stomach, colorectal and urology.

The other is Asia MD Pte. Ltd. Asia MD works closely with medical doctors and healthcare professionals to provide reliable healthcare information and articles written or approved by medical professionals in order to combat fake medical news. Followers of Asia MD’s social media receive regular updates on new healthcare articles, gain opportunities to ask questions with the complimentary “Ask-A-Doctor” service and obtain information on how to keep away from avoidable medical errors in hospitals and medical clinics. Both English and Mandarin translations are available on the website.

From Manual to Automation: How a Household and Lifestyle Brand Revolutionised Their Business ProcessSME Centre@SICCI

Crystal Chan

In the past, it took more than eight hours per day to clear the backlog of sales fulfillment. Now, the company only takes less than one to two hours to do so, immensely improving the productivity cycle.

A Leading Household and Lifestyle Brand

Sheldon Global was founded in 2014 in Singapore with a core business in retail and e-commerce sale of household and lifestyle products. The company has a broad portfolio encompassing home and lifestyle products with six major house brands under its belt; each with a different product focus.

With a vision of venturing into markets beyond Singapore, Sheldon Global came up with various strategic regional and global expansion projects in 2022. The intention of the projects was to expand its reach towards Singapore’s Southeast Asian neighbours: Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. Afterwards, it planned to extend its network towards the U.S., the UK and other parts of Europe.

Despite its great aspirations, Sheldon Global has a critical issue it needed to resolve before it can continue with its expansion schemes.

Tedious Manual Process and Manpower Crunch

As one of the leading household and tableware companies in Singapore, Sheldon Global faces hundreds and thousands of orders daily. As the business expands, the manual process of order fulfilment was getting more difficult for the staff to complete.

It slowly culminates to the point where the orders cannot be fulfilled within a day. Issues such as the staff possibly being overworked and overwhelmed due to manpower crunch are areas that may impede the business growth as well.

Therefore, it is imperative that Sheldon Global’s sales orders are fulfilled quickly and efficiently to lock in sales in order to compete with their competitors who rival them in both online and offline platforms.

Consultation with SME Centre@SICCI

Sheldon Global first came into contact with SME Centre@SICCI in August 2020 when they were enquiring about the Productivity Solutions Grant (PSG) for strategising their warehouse operations.

Our centre’s Partners for Business Growth (PBG) Programme Team Lead and business advisor, Mr Aaron Wan first went through a consultation with Sheldon Global’s Managing Director, Mr Brien and assisted the company with their PSG application.

Throughout the period of working together, Aaron developed a close business relationship with Sheldon Global. He discovered that Mr Brien’s vision for the company didn’t just stop with improving work performance and efficiency in the field but he was also actively looking for ways to lead the company forward in the industry.

Thus, Aaron introduced the PBG Programme to Mr Brien after considering their needs and future plans.

Partners for Business Growth

The PBG Programme provided an in-depth consultancy for Sheldon Global by examining its key business problem statement. Due to this in-depth consultancy, Aaron was able to discover the dire need for automation in the company’s order process.

Mr Brien was later introduced by Aaron to Republic Polytechnic’s Robotic Process Automation Programme (RPA), where it assisted with the enhancement of Sheldon Global’s staff capabilities and resolved the issue of manual order processing.

In the past, it took more than eight hours per day to clear the backlog of sales fulfilment. Now, the company only takes less than one to two hours to do so, immensely improving the productivity cycle.

Sheldon Global implores other SMEs to get in touch with SME Centre@SICCI and learn more about the PBG Programme that can potentially help them build on existing capabilities and grow beyond Singapore’s shores.