New strategy to help firms take the leap overseas

Singaporean companies Charisma Energy and Sunseap International clinched a contract for a 140MW solar farm in Rajasthan. Mr Benjamin Yap, IE Singapore's group director for North and South Asia, said building a track record is helpful for local firms
Singaporean companies Charisma Energy and Sunseap International clinched a contract for a 140MW solar farm in Rajasthan. Mr Benjamin Yap, IE Singapore's group director for North and South Asia, said building a track record is helpful for local firms wanting to internationalise.PHOTO: CHARISMA ENERGY

IE Singapore builds relationships at city and provincial levels, seeks out specific markets

Trade-promotion agency IE Singapore is embarking on a new strategy to help Singaporean companies internationalise.

It is diving into key markets that it wants local companies to target, such as Indonesia and China, and building more relationships at the city and provincial levels.

At the same time, it is ramping up the awareness of local firms about specific markets that would suit their needs.

Mr Benjamin Yap, IE's group director for North and South Asia, said the deep-dive strategy grew out of the Committee for Future Economy discussions last year, when China, South-east Asia and India were identified as key market opportunities for local companies.

"We took the next discussion deeper. The thinking was that there should be certain cities and provinces where we can take our businesses to, so we spent the last year looking at various specific areas," he said.

The areas include Chongqing, home to the third government- to-government project between Singapore and China, while in Indonesia, "the primary thesis... is to look beyond Central Java to see if there are new cities we can engage in" Mr Yap said, pointing to centres like Makassar and Medan.

Singaporean companies are aware of the need to explore internationally, but it is more critical for them to look at specific cities and provinces, he added.

Mr Yap noted that more smaller companies with revenues of around $10 million are looking to go abroad. A few years ago, the most interested companies had revenues of around $50 million.

  • SOME RECENT DEALS

  • • IE Singapore partnered Pune Municipal Corporation to help Singapore's urban-solution providers participate in India's Smart Cities Mission.

    • It also linked up with the Makassar City government to help Singapore firms capture opportunities in smart city solutions.

    • It partnered the Chongqing municipal government to drive the implementation of key Chongqing Connectivity Initiative projects related to transport and logistics.

"What we try to do is to create different entry points for small and medium-sized businesses to come in without taking too much risk... Many companies like to start small and we want to find markets that fit their needs," he said.

While most companies may not be familiar with Rajasthan, Mr Yap cited Singaporean companies Charisma Energy and Sunseap International, which together clinched a contract for a 140MW solar farm in the state. "That's just one project," said Mr Yap, highlighting that building a track record is helpful for companies wanting to internationalise.

In the past year, the trade agency has also been building relationships at the city and provincial levels. This is done partially through signing memorandums of understanding.

Meanwhile, firms and trade associations like the Singapore Manufacturing Federation (SMF) are heeding IE Singapore's call.

Last month, a 25-member SMF delegation signed an MOU in Bandung with the West Java Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

SMF president Douglas Foo said: "The trip to Bandung... was made as more than half of Indonesia's manufacturing activity is located there.

"On top of the favourable pro- business incentives for foreign investment with the new administration, the decentralisation policy has encouraged better infrastructure to be built to support industrial activities."

He added that SMF has signed MOUs with several chambers of commerce in Medan, North and West Sumatra.

Home-grown logistics player YCH Group praised IE Singapore's new strategy. It entered Makassar last year and has inked MOUs in Chongqing. YCH executive director Margaret Toh said: "Several of these cities have been noted for their growth potential. Entering them before they achieve first-tier status enables YCH to capitalise on first-mover advantage.

"Engaging 'less-known' cities will continue to be a part of our long-term strategy. We focus not only on the extent of our network across countries, but also the depth of penetration in each country."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 14, 2017, with the headline 'New strategy to help firms take the leap overseas'. Print Edition | Subscribe