5 Business Trends to Watch in 2021

2020 is a done deal, and one word pretty much sums it all: instability. With Singapore entering Phase 3of economic reopening and as we head towards 2021, here’s our take on what we think will be the top 5 business trends to watch in Singapore:

1. Accelerated push towards digitisation and e-commerce. We have been talking about digital revolution and getting workers ready for Industry 4.0 in Singapore even before the pandemic struck. What COVID-19 has done over the past months is accelerate the pace of digitization, and increased adoption of technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT). We wouldn’t say that Singapore companies have fully embraced digitisation, but at the very least, business owners are more ready to explore how technology can help them transform their workforce.

Digitising workflows and business processes allows companies to be more productive, remain connected with their clientele, and better customise the solutions to the marketplace.

We are also seeing a faster growth in the e-commerce space, as more companies are turning to online channels to reach out to potential consumers. As the e-commerce matures in terms of use in Singapore, opportunities for growth are become more apparent for companies providing support to e-commerce activities like electronic point of sales (EPOS), e-payments, virtual helpdesks and marketplace integration solutions.


2. Digital Healthcare & EdTech in the spotlight. The COVID-19 outbreak has fueled demand for digital health and education technologies (EdTech), and Temasek Holdings has started looking into actively investing in these sectors. A research compiled jointly by Temasek, Google and Bain & Co have shown that usage for digital healthcare and education apps have grown significantly during the pandemic.

It may well be boom-time for digital health and EdTech companies, as they race to meet demand for such digital services especially in countries that gone back into semi- or full lockdown in the region, such as Hong Kong, Vietnam and Japan due to resurgence of the virus.

Cybersecurity & data protection are a must. You may have come across phishing emails designed to make you think Google, Amazon, Paypal or Stripe have issues with your online payments. Some of you may already have fallen victim to such scams and unwittingly clicked “reply” with your personal and (gasp) credit card details.

Cybercrimes continue to be on the rise, and is estimated to cost SGD 8 trillion by 2021, more than the global drug trade combined. Cybercrime is probably the single greatest threat to the digital revolution, and is ever-growing in terms of sophistication and complexity. Unlike what many may think, hacking, computer viruses and malware form only a small part of cybercrime, with the majority of online criminal activities focused on identity fraud (stealing and using personal particulars online), cyberextortion and ransomware attacks, and credit card payment fraud.


Another food for thought: cybercriminals don’t necessarily target only large corporations – in fact, they probably do better targeting individual employees and smaller companies because the cyber vulnerabilities are more apparent and pronounced, which is why you may want to look into your cybersecurity and data protection measures seriously.

4. Reskilling for greater productivity. We have reached a turning point in the future of work: the onus is now on individuals to pivot, learn and invest in reskilling so they become more employable in the long run. At the same time, leaders need to invest in reskilling their workforce to keep productivity levels high, and more importantly, to ensure their workforce remains relevant. 

HR experts will tell you that it could cost up to 6 times more expensive to hire technical and subject matter expertise from the outside than to train your existing workforce. The good news for employers in Singapore is that there are government grants you can take advantage of to redesign work processes and send your staff for training.


5. Companies to focus on becoming agile. “Agile” used to be the buzzword for the tech start-up sector, but not anymore: as we continue to face a business environment that is uncertain, volatile, disruptive and fast-moving, being agile helps you become better at maximizing profit, delivering value, and sustaining growth.

One of the key mantras for tech start-ups is finding 20% of the work that delivers 80% of the value: agile is all about value-creation, and this means companies need to constantly review their processes and refine their strategies for optimal performance. You can do this by using the Pareto Principle in your business processes, for instance: focus on the core competency processes that generate the most value, and outsource the non-core competency functions (e.g. bookkeeping or administrative processes). By doing so, you create a leaner setup that really focuses on what you do best. As we head into 2021, and with no signs of the COVID-19 virus letting up anytime soon, lean and agile is the way to go if you want to ride out the storm.


We’ll end off with some tips:

· Focus on more on long-term sustainability and value creation instead of chasing short-term profitability

· Stay agile and nimble to optimise performance and reduce overhead costs

· Explore incentives and grants that can alleviate costs of digitising processes and reskill your workforce

· Most of all, keep your sights on your end goals, stay positive (or at least try to!) and keep going.


See you in 2021!

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