e-Commerce Funding In Singapore: A Guide To Your Best Options
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Looking for e-commerce funding in Singapore? You’ve found the right place.
In the ongoing endeavor to drive digital transformation in the city-state and to enhance the competitiveness of local businesses, the Singapore government has launched a series of grants and schemes to support the growth of Singapore enterprises.
Some of these are targeted at small and medium-sized enterprises, but many of them are equally applicable to digital merchants as e-commerce grants in Singapore.
We’ve therefore rounded up a list of 5 funding schemes in Singapore, so you’ll know what e-commerce funding options are available for your online business. Let’s get started!
1. Productivity Solutions Grant (PSG)
Introduced in April 2018, the Productivity Solutions Grant can be used by businesses to enhance and automate work processes with the use of technology.
Unde the PSG scheme, businesses will be subsidized for the adoption of technology solutions or use of equipment offered by government-approved vendors. Both generic and sector-specific solutions are available.
For example, solutions within the generic category include e-commerce website development and revamp, search engine optimization (SEO) setup and digital marketing, but to name a few.
As for the sector-specific category, examples include inventory management software, retail analytics and point-of-sale (POS) systems designed specifically for the retail industry.
The full list of approved solutions can be found on GoBusiness Gov Assist.
Starting from 1 April 2022, the level of financial support offered under the PSG is capped at 70%. In other words, businesses can claim up to 70% of what they spend on the pre-scoped IT solutions or equipment.
Enhanced support will be offered for food services and retail sectors. The maximum amount of financial support for these industries is 80% from 1 April 2022 to 31 March 2023.
To apply for the Productivity Solutions Grant, your business must:
- Be registered and operating in Singapore;
- Use the purchased, subscribed or leased equipment or IT solution in Singapore;
- Have at least 30% local shareholding; and
- Have an annual sales turnover of less than S$100 million, or less than 200 employees (for selected solutions only).
Why apply for the PSG for your online business?
Just like you need an air pump to inflate your vehicle’s tires, you’ll need effective systems and equipment to make your e-commerce business work. With the right tools in the right place, you can give a boost to your online business’s productivity, efficiency and profitability.
The Productivity Solutions Grant makes technology solutions more accessible and affordable. If you’re looking to join in the trend of digital transformation in Singapore and upgrade your business processes, then the PSG is a government grant you can consider.
Limitations of the PSG
When applying for the Productivity Solutions Grant, there are some points to note.
Firstly, your company must not have made any payment to or signed any contract with a supplier, vendor or third party in relation to the purchase, lease or subscription of the IT solution or equipment in question. Otherwise, your application for the PSG will be rejected.
Secondly, the PSG applies mostly to businesses in Singapore, and aren’t available for the following entities:
- Charities or institutions of public characters (IPCs)
- Religious entities
- Voluntary welfare organizations (VWOs)
- Government agencies and subsidiaries
2. Enterprise Development Grant (EDG)
The Enterprise Development Grant provides financial support for projects dedicated to developing internal capabilities of enterprises.
Upon successful application for the EDG, businesses can claim third-party consultancy fees, internal manpower costs and that of software and equipment used in the project. Unlike the PSG, there are no pre-approved vendors that applicants must engage when claiming the EDG.
The scope of the Enterprise Development Grant originally covers three areas: Core Capabilities, Innovation and Productivity, and Market Access.
2.1 Core Capabilities
As its name suggests, the Core Capabilities pillar is dedicated to helping applicants strengthen their business foundations, hence preparing them for growth and transformation. That said, projects launched using the EDG should go beyond basic functions like sales and accounting.
According to the website of Enterprise Singapore, the types of projects eligible for grant under the Core Capabilities canvas are as follows:
- Business strategy
- Financial management
- Human capital development
- Service excellence (i.e. improving business services)
- Strategic brand and marketing development
2.2 Innovation and Productivity
The second pillar of the Enterprise Development Grant is Innovation and Productivity. It aims to encourage businesses to transform their products with innovation, or re-engineer processes for improved productivity.
To be specific, the following three areas are covered under Innovation and Productivity:
- Process redesign
- Product development
2.3 Market Access
The last of the EDG’s funding scope is called Market Access. This pillar supports businesses in their endeavors to pursue overseas expansion, which includes the following:
- Mergers and acquisitions (M&A)
- Pilot project and test bedding in new geographical or product markets
- Standards adoption (i.e. conforming to internationally recognized standards and getting certifications in key industries)
Note: Starting from 30 December 2020, “overseas marketing presence” activities will be supported under the Market Readiness Assistance (MRA) grant instead of the Market Access pillar in the EDG. Details of the MRA scheme will be discussed below.
The amount of funding given under the EDG scheme depends on the size of your business.
Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Singapore can claim up to 70% of qualifying project costs, whereas the figure is capped at 50% for non-SMEs.
For the food services and retail sectors, the said amount is increased to 80% during the period of 1 April 2022 to 31 March 2023.
Your business must satisfy the following criteria in order to qualify for the EDG:
- Registered and operating in Singapore;
- Has at least 30% local shareholding; and
- Be in a financially viable position to start and complete the project.
Why apply for the EDG for your e-commerce business?
A digital backbone can be found in most, if not all online stores. While your e-commerce company likely has the fundamentals for doing business online, it doesn’t hurt to re-engineer certain systems or processes for better efficiency and productivity.
e-Commerce automation, in particular, is an area that you’d want to focus on. With the ability to optimize workflow as well as bringing time and cost savings, it’s an investment you make today that will pay dividends over the long term.
To this end, the Enterprise Development Grant is an ideal source of e-commerce funding in Singapore.
Limitations of the EDG
As opposed to the PSG, which subsidizes businesses based on the equipment or IT solutions deployed, the Enterprise Development Grant is available only for qualifying projects that fall under any of the three key focus areas.
Grant applications will be assessed based on different metrics of the project, such as project scope, outcome and competency of the service provider.
Applicants are also advised to keep their project duration within a reasonable timeframe (e.g. 12 to 18 months) to ensure project relevancy in a constantly changing economic environment.
3. Market Readiness Assistance (MRA) Grant
Designed for SMEs, the Market Readiness Assistance grant supports Singapore businesses in overseas expansion. Expenses eligible for the grant will be reimbursed to applicants after the requisite deliverables are provided.
The MRA grant can be used for a number of purposes in a business’s overseas venture, namely: market promotion, business development and market setup.
3.1 Overseas market promotion
Firstly, the Market Readiness Assistance grant can be used to financially support activities in relation to the promotion of a business to increase brand awareness and visibility in overseas markets.
Examples of supportable activities include launching pop-up stores, road shows and in-store promotions in a non-Singapore location. Pitching fees at conferences and the fees charged by trade fair organizers may also be claimed under the MRA grant.
3.2 Overseas business development
Activities involved in overseas business development are those that define your business’s position in a new market. These are also supportable under the MRA scheme.
For example, you may claim expenses for business matching in which you identify distributors, franchisees or joint venture partners.
Another supportable activity under the MRA scheme is the setup of an “overseas marketing presence” (OMP), such as business development office rental or the deployment of a permanent staff at the OMP.
3.3 Overseas market setup
Overseas market setup is another area covered by the Market Readiness Assistance scheme.
Legal, advisory and documentation expenses incurred in relation to foreign expansion may be claimed under this scheme. Name search, intellectual property application and trade credit insurance (TCI) are some examples of supportable activities.
To help businesses better leverage free trade agreements (FTAs) in target markets, in-depth FTA consultancy is also on the list of supportable activities. However, specified FTA consultants must be engaged in order to be eligible.
For each successful application, the maximum amount of MRA funding is 70% of eligible costs.
The funding amount is subject to an upper limit of S$100,000 per company per new market from 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2023, which includes:
- Overseas market promotion (capped at S$20,000)
- Overseas business development (capped at S$50,000)
- Overseas market set-up (capped at S$30,000)
To apply for the MRA grant, your business must:
- Be registered or incorporated in Singapore;
- Meet the new market entry criteria (i.e. target an overseas country, with overseas sales not exceeding S$100,000 in each of the last three preceding years);
- Have a minimum of 30% local shareholding; and
- Have a group annual sales turnover of not more than S$100 million, or a company group employment size of not more than 200 employees.
Why apply for the MRA grant as a digital merchant?
Every business operating in a particular place has a cap to the total addressable market (TAM). When you’ve exploited all opportunities in your home market, growth bottlenecks emerge and it’s time to find a way out.
With the value of merchandise traded across borders forecasted to hit US$500 billion by 2025 — and US$2 trillion by 2030 — cross-border e-commerce is a lucrative opportunity eyed by digital merchants across the globe.
If you run an online business which also qualifies as an SME, then the MRA grant is a source of e-commerce funding that you can consider. It’ll help fulfill your global ambitions, and take your business to new heights.
Limitations of the MRA grant
It must be noted that each MRA application covers the expenses of one activity in one overseas market only. To obtain MRA funding for different activities, separate applications must be made.
Besides, an independent auditor must be engaged to verify all expenses incurred. In the case where you engage an auditor appointed by Enterprise Singapore, an audit grant fee will be given to you. The grant is capped at S$500 or 70% of the audit fee, whichever is less.
All claims made under the MRA scheme will be disbursed on a reimbursement basis. All expenses must be actually incurred and paid before you’re given the grant.
4. Enterprise Financing Scheme (EFS)
With an aim to address enterprises’ financing needs, the Enterprise Financing Scheme is launched and administered by Enterprise Singapore, a statutory board under the Ministry of Trade and Industry.
In the event of enterprise insolvency, Enterprise Singapore will share the loan default risk with the participating financial institutions. As such, the EFS will catalyze business lending decisions, and make business financing in Singapore more accessible to local enterprises.
The Enterprise Financing Scheme is an umbrella scheme consisting of 7 government-assisted financing schemes, each of which will be explored in detail below.
The first financing scheme covered in the EFS has a focus on green initiatives. It supports projects, equipment purchases, ventures as well as mergers and acquisitions dedicated to creating positive environmental impacts.
To motivate partner financial institutions to provide business funding for these initiatives, 70% risk share will be undertaken by Enterprise Singapore under this scheme. The interest rate, on the other hand, will be determined by the financier upon risk assessment.
4.2 SME working capital loan
As its name indicates, this scheme is designed for small and medium-sized enterprises to support their operational needs, such as inventory purchase. It’s a type of working capital financing that can help businesses overcome cash flow gaps or fund their daily operations.
While the borrower bears the sole responsibility to repay the loan, Enterprise Singapore would take on 50% of risk share in the loan. Young enterprises, which are established within the past 5 years, may receive an enhanced risk share of 70%.
4.3 SME fixed assets loan
Also designed for SMEs, this loan can be used to finance the acquisition of fixed assets locally or in an overseas market. Eligible activities include:
- Purchase of machines or equipment for upgrading and automation
- Construction or purchase of factories or business premises built commercially or by the government
Similar to the SME working capital loan, applicants are required to fully repay the fixed assets loan. Risk share undertaken by Enterprise Singapore is 50%, but young enterprises or those operating in challenged markets may receive 70% risk share.
4.4 Venture debt loan
The venture debt loan can be used by fast-growing enterprises to support business growth. It’s most suited for startup companies that lack the requisite assets to be pledged as collateral under conventional bank lending. Warrants are used instead to compensate for the higher levels of default risks.
Enterprises that apply for the venture debt loan under the EFS will have to repay 100% of the loan amount. Risk share generally stands at 50%, but young enterprises may receive 70% risk share from Enterprise Singapore.
4.5 Trade loan
Trade loans are covered in the EFS scheme to finance the domestic and overseas transactions of Singapore businesses. Loan types supported under this scheme are listed below.
- Inventory or stock financing
- Bank guarantee (capped at 2 years tenure)
- Structured pre-delivery working capital (revolving working capital)
- Factoring with recourse, bill of invoice or accounts receivable discounting
- Overseas working capital loan
Like all other government-assisted financing schemes discussed above, applicants have the obligation to repay the loan amount in full.
Until 31 March 2023, Enterprise Singapore will undertake an enhanced risk share at 70% for young enterprises and those operating in challenged markets.
4.6 Project loan
Project loans can be obtained to finance the completion of secured domestic projects. Aspects covered by EFS project loans are as follows:
- Working capital loan
- Factory, building or land (including purchase, renovation or construction)
- Hire-purchase of equipment, machineries, vessels, other fixed assets or machinery
Risk share is at 50%, whereas the amount is 70% for young enterprises or businesses in challenged markets. The borrower is responsible for paying off all of the loan amount as well.
*Note: Only domestic projects carried out by construction enterprises are supported under this scheme, so project loans may not be applicable to most e-commerce companies.
4.7 Mergers & acquisitions loan
Last but not last, the mergers & acquisitions loan supports enterprises in their business expansion through acquisition of another company. The acquired enterprise can be a local or foreign one.
Under this scheme, the risk share is 50%, except for young enterprises or enterprises operating in a challenged market, which may receive a risk share of 70%. The applicant must repay 100% of the loan amount.
Why apply for the EFS for your e-commerce business?
Traditionally, there are numerous obstacles when e-commerce companies and SMEs seek out business financing. A lack of tangible assets as collateral and high risks of default perceived by lenders are among the reasons for the difficulty of getting business financing.
The Enterprise Financing Scheme helps overcome some of these barriers. By undertaking a portion of the risk share, the government motivates financial institutions to extend credit access to Singapore enterprises, making it easier to get more funds for your business.
Limitations of the EFS
Although a portion of risk share is undertaken by the government, the applicant remains solely responsible for paying off the loans. Interests on loan also apply, and the rates vary depending on the financiers’ risk assessments.
Therefore, strictly speaking, the EFS makes financing more accessible but doesn’t necessarily make it more affordable for your e-commerce business.
5. e-Commerce funding from Choco Up
With offices in Singapore and Hong Kong, Choco Up is a global technology and financial services platform, offering revenue-based financing, payments and business growth solutions for digital merchants and startups.
Unlike most government grants in Singapore, there’s no restriction on how e-commerce funding from Choco Up should be used. That said, Choco Up’s funding is commonly used by digital merchants for the following purposes:
- Increasing marketing or advertising spending to bring more sales
- Purchasing inventory
- Launching new product lines
- Expanding into new markets
- Hiring new talent
e-Commerce funding provided by Choco Up ranges between US$10K to US$10M.
The amount that you can get is determined by our proprietary data-driven risk management algorithms, based on multiple factors such as your business’s monthly revenue, monthly transaction rate and unit economics.
To find out how much funding your company can get, you can sign up for a preliminary offer here. It's free and takes only a few minutes.
There is no requirement on the sector or location that your business operates in. However, to apply for e-commerce funding from Choco Up, your business must:
- Have operated for at least 6 months; and
- Have a monthly revenue of at least US$10K.
Why apply for Choco Up’s funding?
As the trusted growth partner of digital merchants, Choco Up’s e-commerce funding is known for having ample flexibility.
For starters, there’s no limitation on how you use the funding. Flexible use of capital gives you the freedom that other financing methods can’t offer.
Secondly, your e-commerce funding plan will be tailored to your business needs. Your business’s revenue, growth objectives and other factors will be taken into account when your funding plan is devised, so you can get the best use out of your new funding with Choco Up.
Thirdly, unlike loans where repayments are fixed in dates and amounts, there’s no rigid schedule in paying back Choco Up’s funding.
Under the revenue-sharing approach, you’ll repay more of the funding when your company’s revenue performance is good, and repay less when your monthly revenue decreases — until the funding amount plus a small flat fee is fully repaid.
That is to say, the amount that you repay in a particular month is based on your actual revenue performance, so you don’t have to worry about the pressure on your business’s cash flow.
Sounds good, but what’s the catch? There’s none. At Choco Up, we promise that a small flat fee is all we get for fueling your business’s growth. There’ll be no hidden surprises.
Some last words
Finding a growth partner in your business journey is like finding a soulmate in your life. A good one would support and fuel your growth, whereas a bad one would drag you down.
At Choco Up, we’ve helped clients like BuzzAR and eBuyNow grow their user base and revenue by 10X and 5X respectively. Learn more about our e-commerce funding here, or claim your preliminary funding offer for free today!
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