Fastest-growing firms in Singapore propelled by tech, innovation

Most of Singapore's fastest-growing companies are technology firms and others that have invested in digital tools that keep them ahead of industry trends.
Most of Singapore's fastest-growing companies are technology firms and others that have invested in digital tools that keep them ahead of industry trends.PHOTO: ST FILE

Tech firms and businesses that invest in new digital tools come up tops in study

Tech firms and businesses that innovate rapidly to stay ahead of the curve have come up tops among Singapore's fastest-growing companies.

Most of those that made the top ten list are technology firms and while the rest might be in retail or even metal recycling, they have still invested in new digital tools that keep them ahead of industry trends.

Indeed, digitalisation and innovation are key in helping firms to grow quickly, according to a study by global research company Statista and The Straits Times to find the country's fastest-growing businesses.

Companies had to meet certain criteria to be considered for the list, such as having generated revenue of at least $150,000 in 2015 and at least $1,500,000 in 2018, excluding any investment or funds injection.

The study, conducted last year, compiled a league table of 100 local companies that achieved high revenue growth between 2015 and 2018. It follows the inaugural study in 2018.

E-commerce solutions provider Synagie Corporation came up tops, with a compound annual growth rate of nearly 340 per cent.

It started operations here in 2014 and has a multi-channel, cloud-based e-commerce platform that provides a one-stop solution for clients, from cataloguing and marketing to warehousing and last-mile delivery. It has over 280 brand partners and more than 100 employees.

Other firms in the list include "super app" Grab, financial technology firms Coda Payments and Red Dot Payment, and tech solution providers such as Roadbull Logistics and GlobalTix.

Straits Times editor Warren Fernandez, who is also editor-in-chief of Singapore Press Holdings' English/Malay/Tamil Media Group, said: "Our aim is to showcase companies which have been powering ahead, growing rapidly, through a mix of innovation and business savvy.

"In the process, we have uncovered some very interesting new companies which are racing ahead, adding value to both their partners and customers."

Dr Thomas Clark, associate partner and responsible for corporate development and international affairs at German-based Statista, said: "Singapore is well known as an excellent location for certain business activities, ranging from transport and retail to commodities and high-tech.

"I was therefore not surprised to see enterprises from these sectors strongly represented in our 2020 ranking."

However, he added that Singapore is also unique because it has fast-growing companies that are active in sectors that would be dominated by the state or corporate giants in other regions. He said: "I have never seen so many growth champions active in health, education or waste management."

 
 
 

One such firm is BR Metals, a precious metals recycler that came in sixth this year.

Its founder and managing director Frank Chen said: "In spite of the strong headwinds in the global economy and severe supply crunch for precious metals scrap brought on by a bull market, we still managed to secure our supplies and increased our volume by 70 per cent in 2019.

"In Singapore, we've moved to new premises with three times the processing capacity as part of our growth strategy. We will also enhance our precious metals and platinum group metals analysis capability."

He added that the firm faced many challenges but overcame them, saying: "We never leave anything to chance and always strive to stay a step or two ahead of the industry through market research, strategic planning and continuous improvement in our process and technology."

Grab Singapore country head Yee Wee Tang said the firm's success came from a hyper-local approach that meant tackling specific realities in each country and working with local governments. It also worked with partners to leverage technology to address the issues faced by communities.

Grab ranked third in the list.

He said: "The myth is that you can execute the same strategy in each of these markets. While the secular trends are very similar, in order to compete, you must have an extremely localised approach supported by global-sized scale."

Coda Payments chief executive Philippe Limes said the company's big steps forward have come from listening to its clients.

"From diversifying the range of payment options that we support to building a consumer-facing presence at codashop.com, we've succeeded by following the advice of the merchants we serve," he said.

National University of Singapore Business School's Associate Professor Lawrence Loh said nascent tech start-ups might face business challenges like innovation and funding that are less tied to the ongoing economic uncertainties.

He added that technology is the way to go in this new economic era. "They should continue to innovate and transform so as to nurture new shoots of growth in the new era of technological disruptions.

"Technology can transform existing businesses and move them into new growth markets. More significantly, technology in itself can be the new products and services that will be the next springboards of growth."


The top 10 fastest-growing companies

1. SYNAGIE CORPORATION

Synagie helps brand partners, including small and medium-sized enterprises and multinationals, to execute e-commerce strategies in the body, beauty and baby sector across the region. Compound annual growth rate: 339.3%

2. SINANJU TANKERS HOLDINGS

Sinanju Tankers Holdings comprises a group of ship-owning companies that have been operating in the Singapore bunkering industry since 1992. Sinanju Logistics Services is the operating arm of its fleet of 14 double-hulled bunker tankers. Compound annual growth rate: 237.3%

3. GRAB HOLDINGS

Grab is a "super app", offering millions of users across eight regional countries access to digital services such as ride-hailing, food delivery, parcel delivery, online video streaming, digital payments and financial services. Compound annual growth rate: 233.3%

4. CODA PAYMENTS

Coda Payments helps digital content providers accept payments in more than 20 countries with payment channels that every consumer can use, even if they don't have a credit or debit card. Compound annual growth rate: 227.8%

5. KC GROUP

The company runs hairstylist and skincare businesses. One of these is kcuts, which provides haircuts in 10 minutes. It has around 50 outlets in Singapore. Compound annual growth rate: 193.1%

6. BR METALS

The company recycles precious metals. It aims to provide a viable alternative to deep-earth mining, which causes serious environmental damage. Compound annual growth rate: 183.4%

7. ROADBULL LOGISTICS

Roadbull uses technology to help merchants participate in the shift to e-commerce through a single ecosystem. It uses innovations to ensure products get delivered in a timely manner and trace parcels at every step of the way. Compound annual growth rate: 183%

8. GLOBALTIX

GlobalTix is a cloud-based electronic ticketing platform for the travel sector. It comprises many features such as real-time sales, pricing and distribution, product bundling and data analytics.

It also has a common marketplace that allows merchants to distribute products and travel partners to buy. Compound annual growth rate: 173.7%

9. RED DOT PAYMENT

Red Dot Payment helps businesses accept cards and digital payments for e-commerce. It specialises in the hospitality industry. Compound annual growth rate: 171%

10. CYNOPSIS SOLUTIONS

Cynopsis Solutions helps clients in the financial services and professional services sectors comply with regulations, such as in anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing. Compound annual growth rate: 143.2%

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 15, 2020, with the headline 'Fastest-growing firms here propelled by tech, innovation'. Print Edition | Subscribe