OCBC to launch programme to accelerate growth of women-owned SMEs

WHEN medical know-how startup N&E Innovations founder Didi Gan began her enterprise in 2020 through the Covid-19 pandemic, she discovered herself struggling to lift funds.

Especially at an early stage of the enterprise cycle, it may be “very difficult for women entrepreneurs to look for funding”, Gan stated.

She added that she needed to “bootstrap” – or construct her enterprise from scratch with minimal exterior capital – “for the first two to three years”.

Such fund-raising difficulties had led to some uneven outcomes for girls in comparison with their male counterparts.

According to knowledge from OCBC, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) owned by girls have, usually, registered barely decrease development in gross sales turnover throughout the first three years of operations.

However, women-owned companies which tapped financing to help their development have been capable of bridge the hole, the financial institution stated.

Linus Goh, head of worldwide business banking at OCBC, famous that whereas he sees many convincing examples of ladies entrepreneurs main profitable companies, there’s a “disconnect” as the expansion within the illustration of women-led companies within the financial system nonetheless “lags their male counterparts”.

“Even in a developed market like Singapore, where women founders have a track record of building successful businesses and have grown at a faster rate than their male counterparts over the past five years, women-owned SMEs account for only about 30 per cent of all businesses here,” he stated.

OCBC is saying on Friday (Mar 8) – which can be International Women’s Day – a brand new SME programme to speed up the expansion of women-owned companies and enhance their illustration within the financial system.

The OCBC Women Entrepreneurs Programme, which can launch in April, is the primary programme devoted to girls entrepreneurs by a Singapore financial institution, it stated.

Through this, women-founded startups can safe financing of as much as S$100,000 throughout the first two years of incorporation, with the processing price for such loans to be waived. 

The financial institution stated 1 / 4 of its SME prospects in Singapore at the moment are owned by feminine entrepreneurs. 

Building help networks

OCBC additionally hopes the programme will assist develop the variety of feminine founders in historically male-dominated industries corresponding to manufacturing, assets, constructing and development, in addition to transport and logistics.

Women at the moment account for over 25 per cent of illustration in such male-dominated industries, which Goh describes as an “encouraging sign”.

He added: “If we were to be able to lever that proportion of representation in the economy in the various sectors, then you also have a strong economy going forward.”

Besides monetary support, Goh stated the programme goals to assist girls entrepreneurs achieve higher connectivity and entry to at least one one other.

This could be finished by way of instructional workshops and alternatives to community and discover mentors in different profitable feminine entrepreneurs. 

N&E Innovations’ Gan additionally harassed the significance of getting a help community, particularly within the early years of 1’s enterprise. 

“In our earlier days, it was a very lonely journey,” she stated, including that such a programme would enable girls entrepreneurs to “support each other and raise more funding”. 

Sharon Lim, chairperson and former chief government officer of 3D trend design platform Browzwear, agreed that such help may “help level the playing ground”.

“Some funds worry more when a woman is in charge, and do not want to invest because they calculate her other responsibilities,” Lim stated.

“It took me 20 years to come to this point,” she added, hoping that with the assistance of the programme, “it could halve (the duration of) everyone’s journey”.

Beyond borders

The programme will probably be rolled out in Singapore earlier than it’s launched in Malaysia and Hong Kong at a later stage.

It builds on the same initiative in Indonesia, the place OCBC has supported about 1,400 girls entrepreneurs working micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) for the reason that launch in 2020.

Goh recognised that it’s important to have a programme that “empowers women entrepreneurs to go beyond the borders of Singapore”. 

He added that the financial institution goals to help girls’s journeys as they face challenges sometimes related to girls who’re on the forefront of enterprise, innovation and breaking norms in industries.

The financing for the Women Entrepreneurs Programme will probably be supplied beneath the OCBC SME Sustainable Finance Framework, which has been expanded to incorporate a brand new class for social loans. 

In the context of social loans, Goh sees women-led companies as “a significant differentiator”. 

He added that the programme would assist the “performance of women in businesses and their contribution to economies” and have a “positive impact on diversity in the workforce”.