Singapore companies want Shanghai trade fair to help crack the Chinese market

A guard walks in front of the National Exhibition and Convention Center, the venue for the upcoming China International Import Expo in Shanghai, on Nov 3, 2018. PHOTO: REUTERS

SHANGHAI - A Singapore biotech company wants to help China improve sanitation at tourist sites with its bio-toilets that can turn waste into fertiliser in 24 hours.

Westcom Technology also aims to bring its food waste machines, used by town councils, hospitals and schools in Singapore, to the vast Chinese market of nearly 1.4 billion people.

It is one of the more than 80 Singapore companies taking part in the inaugural China International Import Fair (CIIE), which will start in Shanghai next Monday (Nov 5).

"We want to bring in products that fit into what China wants to do, in terms of protecting the ecosystem, toilet revolution and waste recycling," said Westcom Technology chief executive David Tan.

He noted that there is a lack of toilets in China, especially in the remote tourist destinations.

"The local authorities have problems finding suitable locations to build toilets and the infrastructure is not ready. They are commercialising faster than (they can build) the basic infrastructure," Mr Tan observed.

Three years ago, Chinese President Xi Jinping declared a war on poorly maintained public toilets in a campaign dubbed as a "toilet revolution".

He called for an overhaul of public toilets across the country at tourists attractions and in rural areas to boost domestic tourism and improve living standards.

It has since triggered efforts to build or renovate some 68,000 toilets in tourist sites at a cost of more than 20 billion yuan (S$4 billion). The government aims to add 47,000 toilets and renovate 17,000 by 2020.

"Our bio-toilets don't need water, electricity and complicated piping. And our technology can convert 90 per cent of the human waste into fertiliser, with the remaining 10 per cent turning into vapour, going straight to the air," said Mr Tan.

Each set of bio-toilet costs S$2,000. It has not been commercially sold anywhere yet, but Mr Tan has been approached by a local company to build a prototype for a tourist site in Guangxi autonomous region and has received inquiries from cleaning companies as well as operators managing the rest areas along highways.

Mr Tan said plans are underway for the company, set up in 2015, to open a branch office in Shanghai to explore expansion to China. "We are looking at potential projects in Inner Mongolia and Beijing," he added.

Another Singapore company looking to use the Shanghai trade fair as a springboard into the Chinese market is KinderWorld International Group, a private school that has 15 campuses in Vietnam catering to students from 18 months to 18 years old.

It aims to enter China via cities such as Chongqing, Chengdu and Kunming in south-western China, as well as Nanning, a southern city near the Vietnam border.

"We hope that this event will enable us to explore our expansion into China through organic growth or through collaboration opportunities with potential partners from China, as well as to showcase the strengths and capabilities of our Group," said Dr Thomas Chong, chief communications officer of KinderWorld in an e-mail reply.

Not all Singapore companies at the trade fair are new to China. Mei Heong Yuen, a food company that has been in China for 23 years, has signed up for two booths to promote its range of imported soya sauce, health drinks and candies.

"Shanghai, being more commercially oriented, attracts a diverse group of customers from different parts of China," said Mr James Lee, executive director of Mei Heong Yuen.

"Besides, Chinese President Xi Jinping is attending the fair. This will help give our products a higher profile," he added.

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