Udyan Tea was honored to be the only company from India to be invited to the 2nd Digital Champions Workshop in Singapore on 21st August 2017. Parvez Gupta, one of the founders of Udyan Tea, attended the workshop.
The Digital Champions Workshop was started in May this year, by the Asian Trade Center Foundation, which is a non-profit organization dedicated to the economic development of Asia through improving trade in the region. The 1st Digital Champions Workshop resulted in the creation of Asia Pacific MSME Trade Coalition (AMTC) which is basically an alliance of thousands of Micro, Small, and Medium-sized Enterprises from countries all over the Asia Pacific region.
The workshop's aim is to help small businesses from this region to come together to share information and learn from each other, and most importantly, to learn how to talk to the government officials and help them understand the problems and concerns of small businesses and to present a united front with a stronger voice when talking about trade policies that affect small businesses.
There were a total of 19 participating companies from Australia, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. These companies represented various industries such as IT, fashion, food products, machinery trading, education etc. but the common element being that they were all small digital businesses.
The workshop began in the morning with presentations given by experts in different areas. Dr. Deborah Elms of the ATCF introduced the workshop. Other experts were Mr. Jeff Paine and Mr. Steven Okun, who talked about the key developments in trade and how to communicate our challenges to government officials in a more compelling way. The last speaker was Mr. Edmond Looi, a participant of the first workshop held in May who shared his experience.
In the afternoon, the participants visited Google's Singapore headquarters for lunch and learned about interacting with the media as a small digital company. Next, they attended a round table discussion with government officials from Philippines Department of Trade and Industry and the Vietnamese and American embassies in Singapore.
This was followed by a discussion about AMTC and how it can better support small businesses in the region. The exciting day ended with a networking session followed by dinner. Representatives from companies based in Singapore and officials from New Zealand embassy also joined for this last session.
"We learned a lot of things at the workshop," says Parvez Gupta, "The most important was how to pitch our problems to government officials in a way that they feel compelled to help us. Small businesses form a major part of the economy in India and other developing countries and if we can show government officials how helping small businesses can help the national economic development, we can remove a lot of hurdles that SMEs face."
The participants raised some of the problems they face such as lack of a proper knowledge base, lack of clear information as to the rules, confusing tax policies, lack of consistent standards and testing among different countries, difficulties in custom clearance during import and export etc.
"We personally talked about slow internet speed that lowers the browsing experience of the user and leads to lack of trust while buying products online. It turned out that this was the biggest concern faced by almost all Asian companies in the workshop," says Parvez.
"Unfortunately, none of these problems can be solved overnight," Parvez feels. "We have to work closely with government officials within our own country and other countries that we trade with. Hopefully, by being a part of an organization such as the AMTC, we can get our voices heard and improve things for all small businesses in our part of the world."
SMEs can join AMTC by registering online at tradecoalition.org.