Press Release - Singapore Heartland Enterprise Seminar 2021

Media Release

Singapore Enterprise Heartland Seminar & Inaugural Heartland Innovation Challenge Awards Singapore Enterprise Heartland Seminar – Emerge Stronger Together, Enabled by Innovation”

1. The 7th edition of the Seminar organized by Federation of Merchants’ Associations, Singapore (FMAS), supported by Enterprise Singapore (ESG) and Housing Development Board (HDB) has attracted more than 500 participants via webinar and 50 participants on site. This annual Seminar is a flagship event of FMAS and it specifically focuses on heartland merchants through sharing of best practices from enterprises which have achieved breakthrough and overcome the smallness of size as a constraint. It also brings together likeminded businesses with aspiration to grow, are hungry to innovate and seeking new opportunities to network and collaborate.

2. This year, the theme is “Emerge Stronger Together, Enabled by Innovation”. Early innovators and successful adopters would illustrate their business and product innovation journey, technology adoption process, human resource practices and digitization for growth. How these efforts have helped transform their businesses would also be shared. During the event, FMAS would also present the Awards to the 3 winners from the inaugural Heartland Innovation Challenge.2 The Inaugural Heartland Innovation Challenge (HIC)

3. There are an estimated 19,000 heartland businesses located across town and neighbourhood centers and precincts which offer essential goods and services that are convenient and easily accessible to many of us. These businesses are facing stiff competition from shopping malls and e-commerce, an aging workforce and lack of product differentiation. A large number them still operate in the traditional brick and mortar format.

4. The onset of Covid-19 in 2020 has exacerbated the challenges and many-faced steep decline in revenue. According to the 2020 Annual Business Survey by the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce, more than 50% of the respondents (of which 70% were micro and small businesses) had indicated that covid-19 has brought major impact on their business model. The top two areas highlighted to address the fall in business income was seeking new revenue sources and accelerating digitalisation and technology adoption.

5. With this in mind, FMAS partnered our local Institutes of Higher Learning to match heartland enterprises with students to create innovative products and services, develop new business formats and explore digitalisation. This initiative, The Heartland Innovation Challenge (HIC) is a structured 3-month innovation process that taps on Design Thinking experts, school mentors and students via a bootcamp and workshops that cover problem identification and analysis, conceptualization and prototyping of solutions. This culminates in a pitching session to a panel of judges where the teams are assessed on the innovativeness of their product concepts and feasibility of commercialization. HIC is supported by ESG.

6. A total of 14 companies and 42 students participated in the inaugural HIC Programme. The prizes for the top 3 winning IHL teams are $1000, $500 and $300, respectively. The intangible rewards go beyond the prize money. Leaf Corner is one of the companies that have benefitted as highlighted by Mr Derrick Peh, Manager, from Leaf Corner, “Participating in HIC has allowed us to look at different perspectives and fresh ideas. For businesses which have operated for a while, we can develop blind spots. Doing the same would not achieve new results. There is a 3 need to continuously define the business model and evolve. HIC gave us the opportunity and tools to do so.”

7. Reiterating the purpose of HIC, Mr Yeo Hiang Meng, President, FMAS, said “With 80% of our population staying in HDB flats, heartland enterprises are an integral part of Singapore’s social fabric. But to remain relevant and meet evolving customer’s needs, they need to innovate to survive and grow. Through the Heartland Innovation Challenge, our students can better understand heartland businesses and these businesses can tap on fresh ideas to rejuvenate themselves and the heartland precincts. We look forward to participating businesses taking actions to implement the new concepts.” The Three Winners of HIC Leaf Corner Pte Ltd

8. Established in 2019, the Leaf Corner Pte Ltd has two vegetarian restaurants located in Sembawang and Tai Seng; serving a wide variety of delicious and healthy, zi char style vegetarian food. With increased competition from multiple vegetarian restaurants, Leaf Corner has found market penetration hard to come by and thus is unable to increase their market share.

9. To address this challenge, the team from Nanyang Polytechnic has proposed that Leaf Corner target the younger generation who are getting more health conscious by creating an interactive hydroponic (method of growing vegetables via water) style concept cafe. The cafe will serve healthy café growth plant-based foods to promote self-care and healthy eating. It will also be plated in a unique manner to allow a more interactive hands-on approach, allowing youths to consume with their hands. Unidbox Hardware Pte Ltd

10. Unidbox Hardware was established in 2015 and currently has three retail outlets in the heartlands that offer a wide range of household, sanitary and hardware products to the residents living in the vicinity. They also offer handyman services to meet household needs. At the same time, the 4 company also has an e-commerce site which offers delivery to their customers’ doorsteps. Despite the multiple outlets and an ecommerce site, Unidbox hopes to find a way to better reach out to customers who are actually in need of household services but might not be aware of it.

11. Working with the team from the Singapore University of Social Sciences, Unidbox aims to adopt a holistic approach to combine their sales and service models through free inspection services offered to the customers where Unidbox can help to identify potential problems in the household and further advise the customers as to how they can proceed to tap on the services offered by Unidbox to conduct regular checks on their household. This would enable Unibox to capture new customers for maintenance works. Kim San Leng (Soon Lee) Pte Ltd

12. Kim San Lang, established in 1965 is a Singaporean F&B company operating a chain of more than 30 coffee shops and casual eateries in Singapore. As the company grows from strength to strength, Kim San Leng is now aiming to see how it can further expand and at the same time tweak its business model to be able to assist homegrown F&B businesses and also target a younger group of customers as well as younger F&B entrepreneurs.

13. With an aim to support our local F&B scene, the team from Singapore Polytechnic explored a model where Kim San Leng can establish itself as an incubator to help homegrown businesses by providing them an affordable entry point into the industry and establish a foothold.

This concept will include a shared coffee shop stall that comes with shared general cooking equipment. Coffeeshop concepts will also be modernized where bakers and baristas will come together to provide customers with better options such as the pairing of cakes and pastries with drinks and where menus are constantly refreshed. Training and even delivery will be part of this eco-system to help strengthen the new modernized coffeeshop concept.

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Email: About The Federation of Merchants'


Associations, Singapore Registered as an association in 1989, the Federation of Merchants’ Associations, Singapore (FMAS) is a non-profit organisation formed to represent interest of merchants operating in the Housing and Development Board (HDB) neighbourhood and town centres, as well as stallholders selling in the National Environmental Agency (NEA) hawker centres and markets. Its vision is to be the champion for the heartland business community, and the bridge between the government and heartland retailers and hawkers