The Bruneian government has recognised the vital role small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) play in Brunei’s industrial and economic growth.
The SMEs in Brunei are involved in sectors such as professional services, ICT, e-Business, hospitality, technical consultancy, oil and gas and manufactur- ing. They also benefit from FDIs flowing into the country, as it generates projects and downstream activities which can be undertaken by SMEs.
Many SMEs also receive annual invitations to show- case their business or products at expos such as the China-Asean Expo (CAEXPO) in Nanning, China.
Most SMEs and MSMEs are run by young, educated and highly-skilled individuals, utilising the latest
technological developments to further their busi- nesses. Supported by various agencies, SMEs and MSMEs are set to grow both locally and abroad.
Bank Islam Brunei Darussalam (BIBD) is an institu- tion that has shown commitment in providing sup- port towards the SME Industry in Brunei.
In 2016, BIBD launched the SME 360° Centre, its first branch dedicated towards developing SMEs. It provides comprehensive banking services, spe- cifically catered towards the needs of SMEs. Some of its services include financial solutions and digital payment.
Through its SME 360° initiative, BIBD also holds talks and dialogues to support SMEs. In May 2017, BIBD held a benefits talk to Universiti Islam Sultan Sharif Ali (UNISSA) students, providing tools and tips on start-ups as well as to encourage potential entrepreneurs. The talk also showcased Brunei’s current business ecosystem.
In December 2017, BIBD introduced two new prod- ucts aimed at facilitating SMEs: Biznet, an online corporate banking platform and the BIBD MSME Current Account. Biznet provides management on day-to-day accounts and payment operations, as well as real time account access.
The BIBD MSME Current Account facilitates MSME operations and activities as well as provides support to entrepreneurs that have the potential to develop further.
The Brunei Shell Joint Venture Companies’ (BSJV) LiveWIRE Brunei is a community development programme under the Brunei Shell Company which targets local youth who can contribute towards economic development.
LiveWIRE successfully held its 8th SMEs Promotion which consisted of forums and dialogues by Authority for Info-communications Technology Industry of Brunei Darussalam (AITI) as well as an SME bazaar.
The SME Bazaar not only gave young entrepreneurs an opportunity to showcase their products to the public, but also provided insight on the challenges of managing a business.
The event was held over three days in December 2017 and was a collaborative effort between LiveWIRE, the Oil and Gas Discovery Centre (OGDC) and Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports (MCYS).
The government has also, over the years, made extensive efforts to give local start-ups the best possible chance of developing into sustainable businesses with an eye on expanding abroad.
Many of these attempts at overseas development were unsuccessful, despite the country being blessed with an English-speaking and highly educated workforce with access to ample resources.
However, based on the evidence of a select few, Bruneian start-ups and their founders are learning from past misakes and forming business models which are already gaining regional recognition.
Addressing the needs of the Asean region by helping farmers make better informed decisions, AgromeIQ is one of the most promising start-ups to emerge from Brunei in recent years.
Founded by Vanessa Teo, AgromeIQ’s primary product is a smart-farming mobile application called Sprout IQ, which teaches its users the fundamentals of farming and walks them through the process of starting their own farms.
In December 2017, AgromeIQ signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with BIBD for the implementation of the Sprout (iQ) Farm.
The MoU enables 30 students under BIBD’s Advocating Life- Long Learning for an Aspiring Future (ALAF) to undergo a four-month programme, where they will have access to the locally-developed mobile app.
AgromeIQ’s early success and recognition began at the inau- gural Brunei Rice Bowl Start-up Awards (BRBSA), where it won the ‘Start-up of the Year’ and ‘Founder of the Year’ awards, followed by the ‘Special Recognition’ award at the 3rd Asean Rice Bowl Start-up Awards (ARBSA) in Kuala Lumpur.
“As a start-up, we always focus on scalability and market access, so this validated our expansion plans in the region, as we are now building bridges to other Asean member coun- tries,” said Vanessa Teo, after the ARBSA.
She added that the company is working on strengthening its roots in Brunei and further developing the agricultural ecosystem, while expanding through the formation of stra- tegic partnerships and alliances in other countries.
HeadHunter Sport is a manufacturer of high-quality affordable custom rugby kits for export. Its jerseys are made from a proprietary microfibre blend and held together by reinforced stitching, which provides the wearer with a comfortable and breathable kit that will also stand the punishment of the full-con- tact sport.
The idea to start the company came about when its founders, Yusuf Flynn and his wife, Aziemah binti Abdullah, were looking for a way to develop the sport of rugby in Brunei. Since 2015, they have gone through rigorous product development and continu- ous revisions of their business model before finally perfecting their recipe for success.
“We could see a need in the market for a cost-ef- fective product. We then came up with a solution to these problems with our unique line of products and a business model that allows us to achieve both,” said Yusuf.
“Our clients are pleased because we are a company that understands their needs and are able to cater to them in a variety of ways, so the real winners here are not only people who use our products, but the sport itself,” he added.
HeadHunter Sport was manufacturing gear for the Brunei national team prior to collecting the award for ‘Best Newcomer’ at the BRBSA. Its subsequent appearance at the 3rd ARBSA has gained even more exposure for the company.
A deal was signed with the Singapore Rugby Union in December 2017 to be the official merchandiser of HeadHunter Sport starting in March 2018, man- ufacturing national team jerseys and training wear, in addition to securing rights to manufacture Marvel clothing to be sold from Brunei.
Al-Huffaz Management was founded as a platform to enhance nationwide literacy in the reading of Al-Quran and Islamic Finance. Al-Huffaz’s bread- and-butter consists of matching a pool of local Al-Quran teachers to home-based customers across Brunei.
Al-Huffaz Management is jointly managed by eight personnel and has 80 instructors, who have success- fully conducted various services, including Al-Quran recitals at private residences, housewarming cere- monies and other religious gatherings.
The idea for the company came from an alumnus of Institut Tahfiz Al-Quran Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah (ITQSHHB), who saw a gap in the local market regarding the provision of religious services to the general public.
Al-Huffaz’s website is also up and running after its launch at CommunicAsia 2017, with the hopes of matching religious teachers and students in Brunei more seamlessly.
The owner, Haji Mohammad Loqman Al-Hakim bin Haji Hamdan, and co-founders Muhd Iman Budiman bin Aspar and Mohd Nasyith bin Superi, have incor- porated the slogans ‘Zero Quran Illiterate’ and ‘Zero Islamic Finance Illiterate’ into their quest for a better educated Muslim community.
Winning the ‘Best Social Impact Start-up’ at the BRBSA in November 2017 was a testament to Al-Huffaz’s influence on the community since the matching service first opened for business.
Buycour Marketing Services runs a one-stop online shopping website called buycour.com that helps customers source for products from China without the language barrier and logistic hassles.
The workforce comprises Felicia See, the Manager; her brother-in-law, Sii Tung Yang, as the Marketing Manager; and a graphic designer.
While working in sales for other companies, Sii Tung Yang found that people had to go through different companies specialising in different type of prod- ucts to get their supplies, which were significantly marked-up from wholesale prices. This led to the idea for a platform which serves as a convenient and reasonably-priced solution for all.
Building on its award for ‘Best E-Commerce/Supply Chain Start-up’ at BRBSA, the company plans to promote its presence in Brunei and begin sourcing products from other Southeast Asian countries.
Its website offers a wide variety of household items, electronic products, home and garden products, pet supplies, sportswear, gym facilities, furniture, as well as automotives and electric transportation from China. Recently, the website has added a Brunei Collection to its menu, featuring local sellers selling autoparts, as well as clothing and accessories.
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