Connecting small and mid-sized enterprises (SMEs) with government agencies, service providers, and technology enablers can help fuel growth despite a lack of resources to go digital. That’s the brilliant idea that the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) piloted last year, with the help of five private-sector partners. Dubbed Business sans Borders (BSB), the initial phase of trials lasting nine months was recently completed, and the next phase was announced.

To better understand the initiative, Tech Wire Asia reached out to Mastercard — one of the first private-sector partners to the BSB initiative. According to the company, BSB will enable open, cross border B2B e-commerce platform connectivity that will make it easy, safe and convenient for businesses, and especially SMEs, to buy and sell internationally without leaving their existing marketplace environments that they’re already accustomed to using.

As BSB runs in the background of all connected marketplaces, there’s no need to sign up for anything new. “The key difference from the current situation is that most B2B marketplaces today are essentially directories; they do not offer fulfillment capabilities,” said Mastercard APAC Government Engagement VP Gerald Sun.

Through BSB, marketplaces can offer trade fulfillment services to SMEs, such as escrow payments, lending, logistics, insurance, and even dispute resolution, enabling them to get access to these services in-app – and all in one place – rather than having to go through multiple disjointed service providers like they do today. “In essence, the B2B buying and selling experience will be as seamless, secure, and immediate as it is on the consumer-facing marketplaces that we’re so accustomed to using.”

According to Sun, the simplicity will allow SMEs to reach new buyers more easily, and enable them to source globally, saving them valuable time and resources. Further, once the pilot is scaled up, the initiative can help SMEs fuel growth across borders — as initially conceptualized by MAS and IMDA. In addition to SMEs, marketplaces also stand to benefit from BSB by being able to offer transaction and trade fulfillment capabilities, enabling them to help SMEs source, procure, and fulfill transactions more efficiently. This could, in turn, increase the marketplaces’ share of wallet and growth opportunities. “For payments providers of all types, increased digital transactions will drive growth for the entire ecosystem as BSB is an open, agnostic platform that will support all trade service providers, lenders, established financial institutions as well as fintech companies.”

According to Sun, the private-sector partners in the BSB initiative share an interest in supporting SMEs to grow because they are the backbone of the world’s economy – representing more than 95 percent of enterprises in Asia, and globally. “Even more importantly, SMEs account for approximately 60 percent of GDP and 70 percent of employment across Southeast Asia so they’re a critical segment of these economies.

“Addressing their unique challenges and needs is not only necessary, but also incumbent on the public and private sectors — to collaborate on and solve for, as many studies show that when SMEs are exposed to trade, particularly global trade, they grow and hire more employees.”

Having successfully completed the first phase of trials, the MAS and IMDA expect to trialed the digital hub it has built with real SME transactions on participating platforms starting with those based in Singapore, the Philippines, and India. In fact, in the second phase, BSB will be open to participants such as trade bodies, business-to-business and business-to-consumer platforms, solution providers/FinTechs, SMEs and government agencies. “Our envisioned future is that BSB will evolve into a rich ecosystem that facilitates open access to trade, with active participation from marketplaces, solution providers, SMEs, and governments alike.”

In the coming months, as BSB goes live and scales up, it is expected to help stitch together the various SME-centric marketplaces, empowering business owners and turbocharging global commerce.

Tech Wire Asia

 

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