Seizing opportunities through technology now made easier through enhanced funding

Seizing-opportunities

Oct 2020 - 4 min read 

Estate agent Citi Commercial Pte Ltd recently received funding support from the Enterprise Development Grant to develop a new client-deal management system, which incorporates capabilities for multi-currencies billing, complex co-brokerage structures, data analysis, and generation of advanced reports. These features will boost the overall productivity of Citi Commercial’s more than 20 salespersons while empowering them to continue making sound recommendations to clients.

This project, for which planning started about a year ago, was born out of a desire to better meet clients’ needs for more personalised customer experiences through technology use.

Citi Commercial’s Managing Director and Key Executive Officer (KEO) Mr Kong Chong Phang is glad to have received the funding as it defrayed a “substantial part” of the development cost for the new system.

“In challenging times like these, it is important for enterprises to tap on all available resources to not just survive, but to build core capabilities that will prepare us for the next cycle when the economy gradually recovers. With the grant, enterprises can conserve resources to meet their ongoing operational cost while still investing in solutions that will serve their future needs,” he said.

Since its establishment in 2009, Citi Commercial Pte Ltd has grown over the years and has provided commercial space transactional advisory and turnkey workplace solutions to over one thousand companies, including large multi-nationals.

Mr Kong shared with CEAnergy that harnessing technology has always been a part of the firm’s philosophy. The firm has been actively adopting technology to serve its clients and salespersons as it has always believed in a paperless process and operation for sustainability.

Citi Commercial has been using off-the-shelf Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions available in the market. However, Mr Kong and his team realised that these would eventually not be sufficient to meet the company’s future needs.

Explained Mr Kong, “As we manoeuvre in this high-tech age, our tech-savvy clients are also requesting more data and market analysis. Real estate consultancy is no longer just about finding the ideal commercial spaces for our clients, but in-depth analysis, forecasts, implementation of best practices and tenant-centric recommendations are also expected as part of our delivery.”

The COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing circuit breaker period provided the estate agent with a window to put its plans for the customised system into action this year. The availability of the funding support also helped to catalyse the plans into reality.

Citi Commercial 
Harnessing technology has always been a part of Citi Commercial Pte Ltd’s philosophy. Apart from implementing virtual tours, the firm has also tapped on the Enterprise Development Grant to develop a new client-deal management system.

Empowering salespersons and clients through tech use

Citi Commercial has also embraced other forms of technology to its business advantage by investing in equipment and software for virtual tours. It introduced remote viewings and inspections of properties in the first quarter of 2020.

This was a timely decision. With COVID-19 likely to be around for some time, virtual tours are no longer a good-to-have but a necessity to serve customers well. They were the only viable means to conduct viewings and inspections during the circuit breaker, said Mr Kong.

“Sometimes, clients want to shortlist as many properties as possible for viewing so that they do not miss out any potential match. However, the process of visiting every shortlisted space can be exhausting. By inspecting the spaces virtually, it helps our clients further filter down to their top choices for the actual physical viewing.”

These virtual tours also benefit Citi Commercial’s business clients whose headquarters (HQ) are based outside of Singapore. The HQ representatives are now better able to appreciate the spaces their colleagues in the Singapore operations have shortlisted, and can now assess the suitability of these spaces remotely before making a trip to Singapore to view the property on-site.

Reflecting on his company’s tech adoption journey, Mr Kong said, “Adopting technology is not a one-off affair. Enterprises need to first embrace the mindset that technology is a key aspect of their business continuity. Time and effort will be needed to carve out short, mid, and long-term plans. With these plans, resources can then be set aside and/or sourced out to develop them into reality at an appropriate time.”

Enhanced funding for EAs to tap on tech and level up

If you are a KEO exploring how you can level up your estate agent’s (EA) productivity and capabilities, we encourage you to tap on government grants to transform your business processes.

Some of these grants are offering eligible companies, including EAs, additional funding support till 30 September 2021, in light of challenges brought about by COVID-19.

Here are two grants that other EAs have already benefitted from, which you can consider applying for.

Now, even as face-to-face meetings have resumed albeit with safe management measures in place, conducting virtual tours continue to allow Citi Commercial salespersons to reduce the number of physical meetings with clients. Mr Kong shared that his clients have grown to better appreciate and are now more receptive to virtual viewings. After all, navigating through virtual tours is relatively easy, and more importantly, the process is time-saving.

Enterprise Development Grant

The Enterprise Development Grant supports projects to upgrade businesses, innovate or venture overseas, under three pillars:

  • Core capabilities
  • Innovation and productivity, which includes redesigning workflow and processes.
  • Market access for companies venturing overseas

EAs that are looking into new areas of growth or ways to enhance efficiency can apply for support under the “innovation and productivity” pillar, which would assist them in their review of workflow and processes and automation of routine tasks to save time and reduce business costs.

 Finding Support Eligible Criteria How to Apply 
  • Up to 80% of qualifying project costs.
  • Up to 90% on a case-by-case basis, if an EA has been most severely impacted by COVID-19.
  • Enhanced funding till 30 September 2021. Support levels will revert to 70% thereafter.
The EA must:
  • Be registered and operating in Singapore,
  • Have a minimum of 30% local shareholding, and
  • Be in a financially viable position to start and complete the project.
  • Identify the key project category the EA wishes to apply for.
  • Scope project and provide details in the relevant project proposal template.
  • Identify suitable providers to support the project.
  • Prepare the project proposal and supporting documents.
  • Submit an application on the Business Grants Portal.
Visit Enterprise Singapore’s webpage for more details.

Productivity Solutions Grant

The Productivity Solutions Grant is an assistance programme that provides pre-scoped IT productivity solutions and equipment for a wide range of businesses.

The pre-scoped IT solutions can help automate existing processes, and the time saved can be better channelled towards more value-added services.

From 1 April 2020 to mid-August 2020, close to 40 small- and medium-sized estate agents have successfully applied for the Productivity Solutions Grant. Some of the solutions that have been supported include:

  • Packages that provide for business-grade laptops with collaborative tools and endpoint protection for EAs to work remotely and securely.
  • Cloud-based accounting solutions that provide the necessary features for accounting and sales management.
  • Video conferencing tools to allow users to participate in virtual meetings and engage in chats and polls via web browsers and mobile applications.

Examples of Supportable Solutions

IT solutions for:

  • Customer management.
  • Data analytics.
  • Financial management.

To help EAs with COVID-19 business continuity measures, the scope has been further expanded to include:

  • Online collaboration tools (e.g. Google G Suite).
  • Virtual meeting tools (e.g. Cisco WebEx Meetings).
  • Queue management systems.
  • Temperature screening solutions.

EAs that are looking into new areas of growth or ways to enhance efficiency can apply for support under the “innovation and productivity” pillar, which would assist them in their review of workflow and processes and automation of routine tasks to save time and reduce business costs.

 Finding Support Eligible Criteria How to Apply 
  • Up to 80% of the costs of adopting the pre-scoped IT solution.
  • Enhanced funding is till 30 September 2021. Support levels will revert to 70% thereafter.
The EA must:
  • Be registered and operating in Singapore,
  • Purchase/lease/subscribe to the IT solutions or equipment which must be used in Singapore, and
  • Have a minimum of 30% local shareholding; with company’s group annual sales turnover of less than S$100 million, or less than 200 employees (for selected solutions only).
  • Visit GoBusiness Gov Assist to access the list of supportable solutions and identify relevant solutions that best suit the EA’s business needs.
  • For IT solutions: Get a quotation from the pre-approved vendor.
  • For equipment: Source for the equipment and get a quotation from the vendor.
  • Submit an application on the Business Grants Portal.
  • EAs must sign in using their CorpPass account to transact on the portal.
Visit Enterprise Singapore’s webpage for more details.

Information accurate as at 16 October 2020

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