Perbadanan Usahawan Nasional Bhd (PUNB) aims to invest some RM220 million in 385 companies this year.

The group has funded a sum of RM58.8 million for 97 Bumiputera entrepreneurs nationwide in the first five months of 2020 with the highest amount of financing approved at RM28.7 million for the manufacturing, engineering and services sector.

The rest of investments went to the wholesale sector (RM13 million), and the retail and distributive trade sector (RM12.8 million).

PUNB CEO Izwan Zainuddin said many small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are in a difficult cashflow position to fund their operations due to the Covid-19-induced Movement Control Order.

He added that businesses may take up to six to 12 months to recover from their financial distress beset by the pandemic.

“SMEs need to stay flexible, responsive, resourceful and innovative in making the best of this pandemic. The ability to quickly modify the mode of business operations to suit the current situation could be a success factor,” he explained.

He said the realignment of business models and operations is important and essential in ensuring business sustainability in the long run.

“It is the right time for SMEs to seriously migrate and adopt Industrial Revolution 4.0 (IR4.0) — such as the use of automation, data analytics and the system integration in their operations to reduce their dependence on manual labour and generate new job opportunities.

“PUNB’s business model consistently focuses on providing an integrated entrepreneurial package comprising business financing and support to entrepreneurs,” he added.

PUNB encourages its entrepreneurs affected by the pandemic to discuss their difficulties and concerns with PUNB’s monitoring officers in order to find the best solution for business survival and sustainability.

Since PUNB’s establishment in 1991, it has helped 11,166 Bumiputeras to venture into a wide and varied range of businesses through 7,836 companies with total investments approved of RM3.2 billion.

PUNB previously focused on financing SMEs in manufacturing, engineering and services, but expanded its financing to businesses involved in retail, wholesale and distribution in 2000.

It has also simplified its financing requirement and now offers Shariah-compliant financing assistance from RM100,000 to the maximum of RM10 million with longer financing tenure of up to 10 years from 2019.

The agency, which is wholly owned by Yayasan Pelaburan Bumiputra, approved RM204.4 million worth of financing to 542 entrepreneurs from 354 companies last year.

Izwan added that as e-commerce has become a norm with more consumers opting to shop online, PUNB is collaborating with Shopee to set up online stores for PUNB entrepreneurs to sell and market their products on the e-commerce platform.

“The purpose of the collaboration is to encourage the adoption of business digitalisation among PUNB entrepreneurs and increase the presence of PUNB entrepreneurs in online retail platforms.

“A total of 91 companies have participated which includes nine existing Shopee sellers,” he told The Malaysian Reserve.

Furthermore, PUNB has organised webinar/online training to equip entrepreneurs with the required knowledge and skills on how to manage their online business.

PUNB offers entrepreneurs financing for working capital, purchase of equipment and machinery, business premise renovation, and process and product enhancement.

The agency also finances research and development, patent and copyright registration, marketing and promotion, research for new and overseas markets, and domestic or international certification (product/ company/staff).

PUNB does not limit its business segment and offers financing to all eligible Bumiputera companies based on the requirements stated by PUNB.

PUNB is offering the Bumiputera relief Financing under the short-term Economic Recovery Plan, which is expected to benefit more than 200 Bumiputera SMEs nationwide that are affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.