SMEs In A Changing Landscape: Meeting Needs And Overcoming Obstacles

Top view of unidentified stall vendor selling variety of Malaysian food, cakes and dessert in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah Borneo, Malaysia.

The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic and the ensuing government-mandated restrictions brought a unique and unprecedented set of challenges to the small-medium enterprise (SME) sphere in Malaysia and indeed, all over the world. However, even in ordinary times, running a business is all about overcoming obstacles and coming out bigger and stronger on the other side.

Now that Malaysia has moved into its recovery phase and SMEs are geared to restarting business in the new normal, let’s take a look at some of the strategies that SMEs should employ to navigate the post-Covid landscape of today’s world. We also spoke to Maybank’s Head of SME Banking, En. Adnan bin Sharif, to get deeper insight into the issues currently faced by SMEs and what digital and financial solutions are available for businesses to overcome them.

Prepare for the end of the moratorium

With the end of Bank Negara Malaysia’s mandated six-month bank loan moratorium drawing near in September, SMEs should take steps to evaluate their financial situation early on and not wait until the eleventh hour to assess their options. If businesses foresee having difficulties with resuming their payments once the moratorium ends, the key thing is to come forward and speak to the banks in advance to enquire about repayment assistance.

Repayment assistance involves modifying the loan/financing’s original repayment terms and conditions to provide financial relief to those impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and require extended support after the 6-month moratorium ends on 30 September 2020. “Repayment assistance can help SMEs sustain their business and free up more needed cash flow to run their business,” said En. Adnan. “We encourage business owners to look into this for advance preparation before 30 September 2020; Maybank has a dedicated SME team who is always ready to have this conversation with you to find the best financial solution for your business.”

Making use of financing facilities at hand

SMEs in need of new or additional financing to solve their cashflow issues should make full use of the various financing facilities that are available to them. The government has many ongoing SME-focused funds available, such as the Automation & Digitalisation Fund, and the Agrofood Facility – not forgetting the latest funds introduced under the PENJANA economic recovery package like the PENJANA SME Financing and PENJANA Micro Financing schemes. These funds are introduced to aid SMEs on sustaining their business in this challenging times and it is offered at very reasonable rates and SMEs should definitely look into how they can benefit from them.

Government funds are not the only financing facilities that are currently being extended to SMEs. Businesses can explore other financing options that are being offered by the banks which can meet their cash flow and liquidity needs as well. For example, Maybank offers collateral-free financing where you do not need to pledge any assets to obtain the facility – an added advantage especially during these times.

The importance of contactless payments

In a recent study conducted by Mastercard, it was found that the Covid-19 pandemic and movement restrictions had sped up the adoption of e-commerce, digital payments, and online activities in Malaysia. In fact, the study showed that Malaysians displayed a higher usage of digital payments and mobile wallet usage compared to other countries in Southeast Asia. As a result of the shift to digital and contactless payments, cash usage in Malaysia has declined by 64% since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Since Malaysian consumers are seen to be shifting their preferences towards contactless and cashless payments, it is important for SMEs to evolve the way they do business and adapt to their customers’ needs accordingly. Having a cashless payment gateway such as Maybank QR Pay, Maybank2u Pay, and Maybank card terminal can add value to retail businesses. For instance, Maybank QR Pay allows retail business to accept payments instantly from customers via QR code; Maybank2u Pay provides a seamless journey for customers to shop and pay at their business e-commerce site. It also helps to minimise tedious operational issues of counting cash at the end of every business day and provide clear transaction records that will be reflected in your account within 24 hours.

Moving banking transactions online

Moving towards digitalisation in the new era involves more than just accepting new payment methods. With physical distancing now a priority in the new normal, it is an advantage for businesses to move processes online wherever possible. Indeed, the pandemic has brought about the strict enforcement of new standard operating procedures and health and safety measures; however, these can be easily followed with the help of the right digital tools.

One of the ways in which SMEs can digitalise some of their business processes is by obtaining a suitable digital platform for all their banking and financial transactions. “SMEs should start fully utilising online banking facilities to perform their banking transactions, pay bills, pay salaries, and more importantly, to reconcile account balances on a daily basis,” reiterated En. Adnan. “All this can be done anywhere and anytime. There are two types of online banking platforms available in Maybank: Maybank2u Biz for small and medium companies, and Maybank2E for larger SMEs.” Utilising online platforms will not only help to save time to pay bills or suppliers, it also facilitates physical distancing during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Covering all the bases

maybank_samasamalokal

Another case study of how Maybank has assisted SMEs to branch out in other ways include the creation of its Sama-Sama Lokal platform, where businesses can list their products for sale to spread their digital reach. Moves like these are important in current times given that consumption patterns have moved to the online medium. Maybank also helped connect these businesses with delivery services and subsidised partial delivery charges for selected local businesses in certain locations to help SMEs attract more customers and ease their operating costs.

Adapting to the present and anticipating the future

To conclude, SMEs have faced a wave of new challenges since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic – but there are many steps that can be taken to help overcome these obstacles. Whether it is solving cashflow issues, digitalising processes, or even reviewing business sustenance, SMEs have an array of tools at hand to rise above any given challenge and come out stronger than before.

From being proactive about their finances to embracing new ideas in the new normal, SME owners should take full advantage of all the options available to them in order to move forward with their business. “There will always be ups and downs but businesses must preserve and look at the downtime as an opportunity to reset and innovate to come out stronger. Maybank SME strives to put together solutions to support you at every step of your journey to realise your business goals,” said En. Adnan.

You can find out more about Maybank SME Repayment Assistance here and Maybank’s holistic solutions for SMEs here.

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