President Tan urges S'pore firms to make mark in Japan

President Tan and his wife Mary Tan with Singaporeans living in Japan at the reception last night. With them were Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say; Senior Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth and Trade and Industry Sim Ann; MPs Intan Azur
President Tan and his wife Mary Tan with Singaporeans living in Japan at the reception last night. With them were Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say; Senior Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth and Trade and Industry Sim Ann; MPs Intan Azura Mokhtar and Ang Hin Kee; as well as Singapore Ambassador to Japan Chin Siat Yoon.PHOTO: MINISTRY OF COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION

He cites success stories such as Mr Bean as he meets Singaporeans at reception in Tokyo

Daimaru and Daiso. The duo from Japan are household names in Singapore, and visiting Singapore President Tony Tan Keng Yam said he hopes local brands, too, can leave their mark in Japan.

He was speaking at a reception last night at the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, attended by about 300 of 2,000 Singaporeans living in Japan. They were treated to Singapore food such as barbecued pork from Bee Cheng Hiang, chicken rice and laksa, as well as Tiger beer.

"Singaporeans grow up shopping at Isetan, Takashimaya or Daiso, or for those who are not as young, Yaohan or Daimaru," Dr Tan said, adding that it is the strong link "between our peoples that gives the bilateral relationship its depth and vibrancy".

Singapore companies have been attempting to break into the Japanese market, with SaladStop! opening in Omotesando last month and Bee Cheng Hiang in Ginza in September.

Citing Mr Bean and Wee Nam Kee Chicken Rice, Dr Tan said: "We are also seeing familiar Singapore brand names making their mark in Japan... We hope to see more of such success stories from among our Singaporean companies."

Auditor Lee Bee Hui, 30, said she believes there is room for more local firms to enter Japan. Among the food she has the most difficulty finding, she said, is "good Hokkien mee and bak kut teh".

HUGE OPPORTUNITY

A lot of Japanese companies are keen on South-east Asia and are looking for people who can manage their market for them.

MR BERNARD WEE, who has been living in Tokyo for five years and is vice-president of sales and marketing at Japanese tech firm Works Applications.

Besides food and shopping, Japan's entertainment is also a huge draw for Singaporeans such as Mr Raymond Tay, 42, who said it has been his dream to live and work in Japan since his teenage years, when he was hooked on Japanese dramas.

Now the head of information technology management in an international logistics firm, he said that while technology is an area Singapore has been looking to learn from Japan in its Smart Nation quest, it could also consider emulating Japan in waste disposal.

Meanwhile, Mr Bernard Wee, 34, who has been living in Tokyo for five years, observed a huge market for Singaporeans in Japan, with Japanese firms increasingly looking to venture beyond their shores.

The vice-president of sales and marketing at Japanese tech firm Works Applications said: "A lot of Japanese companies are keen on South-east Asia and are looking for people who can manage their market for them."

Dr Tan, whose visit ends tomorrow, will visit a nursery school in Miyagi prefecture today.

Singaporeans contributed $35.7 million in disaster relief after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that hit north-eastern Japan, in one of its largest relief efforts.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 05, 2016, with the headline 'President Tan urges S'pore firms to make mark in Japan'. Print Edition | Subscribe