Small construction firms can follow the big boys overseas

Singapore's construction industry is facing tough times (Construction industry faces tough times; June 19).

With dwindling contracts due to the slowdown in economic growth, competition from overseas, and tightened control on the use of cheap foreign workers, many small and medium-sized construction companies are being squeezed out of business.

The aggressive push by the Government to adopt new technologies is making the situation worse.

But there are opportunities in many of the developing countries and India, where there is still heavy investment in infrastructure development.

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In the past, small Japanese construction companies which did not have the resources to venture overseas stuck closely to the big boys in the industry.

They entered foreign markets when the bigger firm secured contracts there, and continued to participate in its other construction projects.

This model allowed small companies stability in business so they could specialise and build deep expertise.

This strategy was repeated by the Koreans and now the Chinese companies.

Singapore's construction industry players can also come together to figure out how to work with big boys like Surbana Jurong to secure overseas projects instead of lamenting the dwindling opportunities locally.

Liu Fook Thim

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 22, 2017, with the headline 'Small construction firms can follow the big boys overseas'. Print Edition | Subscribe