Singapore start-ups in Thailand get a leg up with new alliance

Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and National Development Koh Poh Koon (second from right) at the launch of Global Innovation Alliance Bangkok on April 27, 2018.
Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and National Development Koh Poh Koon (second from right) at the launch of Global Innovation Alliance Bangkok on April 27, 2018.PHOTO: ENTERPRISE SINGAPORE

BANGKOK - Compared with Singapore, where there are 200,000 instances of online shopping each day, Thailand has two million.

Mr Erik Cheong, co-founder of Park N Parcel, a Singaporean company offering self-collect and delivery services, is keen to tap the Thais' appetite for online commerce.

He told The Straits Times his firm is looking to set up with major e-commerce partners in Thailand by the fourth quarter. Thailand will be the second market for the firm after Singapore, because of the sheer number of digital consumers in the country.

"The volume is so much bigger here," said Mr Cheong.

Singapore start-ups like Park N Parcel are looking forward to a huge push for their businesses in Thailand with the launch of Global Innovation Alliance (GIA) Bangkok, an entity fostering partnerships in the digital economy between Singapore and Thailand.

The launch was attended by Dr Koh Poh Koon, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and National Development, in Bangkok on Friday (April 27).

This is Singapore's second GIA launched by Enterprise Singapore. The first was launched in November last year in Beijing by Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat to strengthen connections between Singapore technology companies, entrepreneurs and investors with the established ecosystem in China.

GIA is supported by Enterprise Singapore, the government agency for enterprise development.

GIA Bangkok's launch is based on the same principle of partnership and acceleration of digital businesses, with Dr Koh emphasising the vibrant entrepreneurial atmosphere in Thailand that makes it a natural choice for the second GIA.

"Over the past two days, I had the privilege of meeting various Thai technology ecosystem players, and have developed a deeper understanding of the public and private efforts driving innovation in Thailand," he said. "There are tremendous opportunities in the Thai market and the broader South-east Asia region, with the digital market expected to grow from US$50 billion (S$66.3 billion) in 2017 to US$200 billion by 2025."

Dr Koh also recognised Thailand 4.0, a digital economic model launched in 2016 by the Thai government, and its link to the rapid growth in Bangkok's tech ecosystem. "There is also a growing amount of capital that supports the development of start-ups in Bangkok, with the emergence of close to 100 venture capital firms, corporate investors and accelerators, as illustrated by investments of about US$280 million cumulatively over the last five years," said Dr Koh.

The GIA strengthens Singapore's connections to major innovation hubs around the world to create opportunities for Singaporeans, students, entrepreneurs and businesses to gain overseas experience, connect and collaborate with their overseas counterparts.

Vice-Minister of Digital Economy and Society, Dr Pansak Siriruchatapong, said at the launch that Thailand could rely on the partnership with Singapore to find solutions to several projects currently being pushed by the government involving SMEs, big data in the public sector and in the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC).

Apart from the GIA launch, Dr Koh, Dr Pansak and Singapore's Ambassador to Thailand Chua Siew San also presided over the signing of 10 memorandums of understanding to create market access for Singapore start-ups, drive partnerships between both sides and build entrepreneurial talent.

One of the MOUs is a partnership between the Action Community for Entrepreneurship (Ace) and the Thai True Digital Park to set up the True Digital Park - ACE Singapore Centre as a base for Singapore start-ups in Bangkok.

Prior to the GIA Bangkok launch, eight Singapore start-ups - Averspace, Bountie, Chynge, HelloGold, i1Machines, MarkedShot, Park n Parcel and Vault Dragon - had a five-day immersion programme introducing them to Thai laws and regulations regarding businesses, government incentives and the banking system.

Mr Ivan Lim, founder of Averspace, a B2B solution firm, said he wanted to launch a digitalising document management system within the year, particularly for the Thai retail sector. He said GIA Bangkok can help speed up the setting up of his firm, introducing it to the right people in the large retail chains he has his eye on.

Thailand has 90 million mobile subscriptions, which is a mobile penetration of 133 per cent, and 46 million Internet users, or 67 per cent penetration. Some 62 per cent of the population, or 42 million people, are active on social media, according to Techsauce, a Thai website for technology news.

Start-ups in Thailand received more than S$360 million in total funding in 2017, a hundredfold increase from the total funding of S$2.75 million in 2012. The number of VCs and corporations investing into start-ups also increased to over 90 in 2017 from 74 in 2016, according to Techsauce.

Correction note: An earlier version of this story spelt Mr Erik Cheong's name wrongly. We are sorry for the error. It also said that this was Singapore's second Global Innovation Alliance (GIA). Enterprise Singapore has since clarified that this is the second GIA it has launched after Beijing.