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More tech support for heartland businesses

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Neighbourhood firms join local online marketplace for Chong Pang City precinct

A household electronics store in Yishun has gone online after largely relying on foot traffic for four decades. It has been selling television sets, air-conditioners and washing machines at the same spot since 1979.

But since June, Aircold Electro-Mart and other neighbourhood enterprises have joined a local online marketplace created for businesses within the Chong Pang City precinct.

It is and was one of the initiatives launched yesterday by Heartland Enterprise Centre Singapore (HECS) in partnership with the Chong Pang City Merchants' and Hawkers' Association, in an effort to support merchants in the heartland to digitise and increase customer engagement.

Chong Pang City is the third precinct partnered by the centre since June. HECS worked previously with merchants' associations in Ang Mo Kio and Bedok Town Centre.

A study conducted in 2017 by the Federation of Merchants' Associations Singapore (FMAS), which HECS is a subsidiary of, showed that the three key challenges faced by heartland businesses are changing consumer behaviour and needs, increased competition as well as the lack of knowledge to engage younger consumers.

To help neighbourhood businesses, HECS works with merchant associations and government agencies to not only help modernise businesses and upgrade the workforce, but also improve public spaces and make each heartland precinct more distinct.

At the launch, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and Education Chee Hong Tat stopped to speak with shop owners in the neighbourhood to learn about their digitisation efforts.

He said: "We are working with the individual enterprises... to see what are the solutions that will help them to become more productive (and) competitive - to offer better products and services to customers."

With the latest partnership, a four-year plan has been created to revitalise Chong Pang City.

The plan includes enhancing and workforce upgrading programmes for merchants.

The online marketplace provides an avenue for merchants in the neighbourhood to easily list their products and services.

There are 21 businesses on the platform so far, with plans in place to attract the 250 more from the precinct.

Merchants who are part of the online marketplace will also undergo skills upgrading via the Heartland Capabilities Series, which include workshops and overseas study trips to expose them to new skills.

So far, 130 merchants throughout Singapore have gone through the training.