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How DBS Bank is empowering SMEs and enabling growth with its foundED forum

foundED forum, by DBS Bank, facilitated an evening of dynamic discussions, and interactions with key stakeholders in the startup ecosystem

How DBS Bank is empowering SMEs and enabling growth with its foundED forum

Tuesday August 22, 2023 , 4 min Read

A sultry evening in Chennai wasn’t a deterrent for 200 founders, investors, and industry experts coming together for foundED. This initiative by DBS Business Class enables SMEs to access an exclusive community of industry experts, interact with key business influencers, and grow.

The second edition kicked off in Chennai with a keynote from Sudarshan Chari, Executive Director and Head, Business Banking, DBS Bank India.

Chari emphasised the significance of DBS's endeavours as an organisation and stressed the value of fostering partnerships that empower small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

We think, behave, and act like startups. And not like an established bank. We are transformative at the core. This is our differentiator.

“Over the last 24 months in India, and over the last four years in Singapore, we've worked with the startup ecosystem very, very closely to the point that we have started curating our banking propositions, specifically for startups. We have product offerings and we’ve also started extending credit through a unit within the bank, called the digital economy group, Chari said.

First time founders are trying to decode the formula for putting seed funding to work. Scaling too fast or allocating too many funds to one area, in particular, could lead to burning through that money faster than founders foresee.

So how can startups make their money last till the next round?

Managing finances post seed funding

The panel discussion with Prabhu Natarajan, Co-Founder and COO, M2P; Arunprasad Durairaj, Founder and CEO, Flintoclass; Vignesh Shankar, Managing Partner, Artha99; Ramesh Narayanan, CEO, A2B, shed light on putting seed funding to work. Sushant Shetty, SVP & Head, SME Liabilities, DBS Bank India, led the discussion with specific insights from DBS.

Being frugal, hiring people smarter than yourself, and staying focused on the mission are points that all the panelists seemed to agree upon.

Startup TN’s Mission Director and CEO Sivarajah Ramanathan delivered a powerful keynote on Tamil Nadu’s innovation and entrepreneurship development opportunities. His commitment to enabling economic growth by empowering SMEs was evident.

When you look at the Chennai ecosystem or the Tamil Nadu ecosystem, we are a little different from the others. People say we are not aggressive, but I think it's for good, we are very strong in fundamentals,he said.

Ramanathan said "Startup TN is also investing a lot of time and money in setting up liaison offices in Dubai, Singapore, and the United States. “Market access is a crucial area that we are going to concentrate on this year. Inclusive growth is something we are very particular about, he added.

When discussing inclusivity, it is important to consider social impact businesses and their role in fostering a more equitable society. These businesses prioritise both profit and positive societal outcomes, addressing various challenges like poverty, environmental sustainability, and access to education. Embracing them enhances diversity and creates opportunities for marginalised communities.

Building a sustainable business and empowering the differently abled

NeoMotion, a recipient of the DBS Foundation's Social Enterprise Grant Programme, exemplifies the program's commitment to empowering businesses for positive change. This flagship initiative recognises and supports impactful ventures, including both Social Enterprises and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs).

The team at NeoMotion came across multiple stories and instances of why companies started working on the products that they’re building. During interactions with close to 200 wheelchair users across 40 locations in India, the NeoMotion team tried to understand the socio-economic challenges that people face. What are the existing products that they have? What are their mobility challenges?

With the learning that we gained over six months of user interactions, the team narrowed down the crux of the issue. Users are confined within their houses. That's when we came up with NeoMotion and the products we're building right now,said Swostik Sourav Dash, Co-founder and CEO, NeoMotion, an assistive tech solution provider, based in Chennai.

There is an opportunity for people to go out and be economically employed. But because of the severe expenses that can be associated with travel, people are unable to take up jobs. NeoMotion has been plugging this gap.

Since 2014, the DBS Foundation has awarded over SGD 13 million in grants, benefiting over 100 social enterprises and SMEs, enabling them to expand their business models and amplify their social and environmental contributions.