Local firms urged to venture abroad, embrace automation

Expanding abroad as well as embracing automation and other types of new technology were cited as essential steps for firms here at the annual Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry-Credit Suisse business outlook forum.
Expanding abroad as well as embracing automation and other types of new technology were cited as essential steps for firms here at the annual Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry-Credit Suisse business outlook forum.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Local firms have been encouraged to change their business models to take advantage of opportunities presented by economic restructuring and technological disruption.

Expanding abroad as well as embracing automation and other types of new technology were cited as essential steps for firms here at the annual Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry-Credit Suisse business outlook forum.

The event was held at One Raffles Link yesterday.

Mr Claude Harbonn, managing director and head of investment consulting South-east Asia at Credit Suisse, said global economic growth is accelerating and is forecast to come in at 3.5 per cent this year, up from 3 per cent last year.

"China is now the most attractive Asian market to invest in due to its cheap valuations and strong earnings growth," he added.

  • 3.5%

  • This year's forecast global economic growth, which is up from 3 per cent last year.

Chinese demand is driving export growth in Singapore and local firms are encouraged to take advantage of the investment opportunities there. Singapore firms need to venture overseas owing to the Republic's small market size and the stagnating population here.

However, said panellist Jean Yip, founder and chairman of the Jean Yip group, there are "many early stage problems such as making the right connections, dealing with government rules and regulations, language barriers and a lack of familiarity with the culture overseas".

Firms should make trips overseas to get to know the environment they will be expanding their businesses into, panellists suggested.

Aside from globalisation, automation and technology were cited as vital for businesses to stay relevant.

Mr Ng Siew Quan, partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, said firms need to recreate themselves through product and process innovations. He suggested firms use automation to carry out technical tasks.

"More time should be spent coming up with new ideas and products that can give firms a competitive edge," he said.

Mr Jay Samathivathanachai, managing director of Allswell Trading, also addressed the importance of constantly thinking ahead.

He cited the example of the late Mr Chaleo Yoovidhya, co-founder of the global Red Bull brand, who had the foresight to expand overseas about 40 years ago.

At that time, such a venture was considered risky, but eventually led to the company's success.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 20, 2017, with the headline 'Local firms urged to venture abroad, embrace automation'. Print Edition | Subscribe