Innovation key to firms' overseas businesses

Goodrich Global chief executive Chan Chong Beng.
Goodrich Global chief executive Chan Chong Beng. PHOTO: ST FILE

Being innovative and developing talent are important for Singaporean companies managing their businesses overseas, a topic to be tackled at Thursday's Internationalisation Forum on the experience of firms venturing overseas. This week, the heads of two such companies tell Tan Fong Han how they meet the challenge.

Companies that expand overseas face multiple constraints on management so they need to focus on innovation as well as profits to stay competitive, said Goodrich Global chief executive Chan Chong Beng.

He said his firm, which provides wall coverings, fabric, and carpet flooring for hospitality, residential and commercial projects, has "innovation at the heart of its growth and sustainability".

Last year, Goodrich, which operates in eight countries, including Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates, implemented the I-Match application, which allows staff and clients to use their mobile phones to take a photo of their desired product and match it to an online database to search for its product information.

For Sats, a provider of ground- handling and in-flight catering services for many airlines, innovation also extends to the crafting of its recipes. "We work closely with culinary experts... to produce high-quality, authentic dishes for our customers," said chief executive Alex Hungate.

For firms that venture overseas, exposure and integration of staff to foreign culture is crucial.

For instance, there is tension between his Chinese and Singaporean workers at Goodrich Global, said Mr Chan. While the Chinese are used to working in hierarchical structures, Singaporean workers often take the initiative.

Human Capital Singapore (HCS), organiser of Thursday's forum at the Resorts World Sentosa Convention Centre, sees human capital as "the driver who starts the engine and drives the car to reach its destination".

Its important for firms expanding overseas to be in a global immersion programme, said Madam Ho Geok Choo, chief executive of human capital training academy HCS, pointing to its internationalisation programme with Georgetown University that trains business leaders in management and international relations.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 20, 2016, with the headline 'Innovation key to firms' overseas businesses'. Print Edition | Subscribe