Business possibilities in both Chengdu, Chongqing

Residential and commercial buildings rise in the skyline in Chongqing, China, on Jan 25, 2011. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

Singapore's home-grown software company Plunify is attracted to Chengdu in south-western Sichuan province because of the availability of technical talent and favourable policies by the local government.

Yesterday, the firm sealed a pact worth 2 million yuan (S$407,400) - almost the size of its annual turnover of $500,000 - with a Chengdu company at the 17th Singapore-Sichuan Trade and Investment Committee (SSTIC) meeting.

"We have Chinese customers based in Shenzhen and Wuhan, but we wanted to expand to western China, so we started hiring and we found them in Chengdu," said Mr Kirvy Teo, founder of the start-up firm with 12 employees. The city is also putting a lot of resources into developing its semiconductor sector, and incentives offered by the local government such as grants and business matching encouraged Mr Teo to base his company here.

Chengdu, one of the biggest cities in western China, is a key rival to nearby Chongqing, where the new China-Singapore project to boost regional connectivity is based.

The Chongqing Connectivity Initiative, as the project is known, was launched by Singapore and China when President Xi Jinping visited the Republic last November. It is aimed at helping to drive growth in China's less-developed western regions with a focus on modern connectivity and services.

Rather than rivals, Acting Education Minister (Schools) Ng Chee Meng, a co-chair of SSTIC, said yesterday both cities should be viewed as "complementary possibilities" instead.

"If you look at the Chinese strategy of promoting Chengdu and Chongqing as a belt, within that, I trust that my fellow Singaporean businessmen will have the agility to either straddle both or make sure that they partner local partners to exploit the localised opportunities," he told Singapore reporters after co-chairing the meeting with Sichuan vice-governor Zhu Hexin.

Singapore firm Ademco, which signed three cooperation deals with Chengdu-based companies, is doing just that. Apart from actively pursuing projects in Chengdu, it also has an office in Chongqing.

"We are steadily expanding our team (in western China) and we are developing business prospects at both sides," said Mr Albert Wong, general manager of Ademco's subsidiary in China.

A total of 15 memoranda of understanding and agreements in areas such as education, logistics, technology and innovation were signed between Singapore organisations and their Sichuan counterparts.

Mr Ng is in Chengdu for a two-day visit with Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say, who is also the Singapore adviser to SSTIC. The 103-member business delegation yesterday visited the Singapore-Sichuan Hi-Tech Innovation Park, which has attracted some 20 companies - mostly in biomedical sciences and information technology - to invest a total of 18 billion yuan there. The "private sector led, government supported" project is expected to welcome its first batch of residents next year.

The delegation will visit technology start-ups and incubators today to learn about the entrepreneurship and innovation scene in Chengdu.

Last year, Chengdu launched its Entrepreneurship Tianfu Action Programme, which saw some 249,000 new companies registered in the city in just a year.

Singapore is looking to explore future collaboration in technology and innovation-related areas with Sichuan province, Mr Lim said in his closing remarks at the meeting.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 30, 2016, with the headline Business possibilities in both Chengdu, Chongqing. Subscribe