Tech-enabled firms among fastest growing in S'pore

Top 10 list shows companies that tap tech to provide innovative twist - including some in traditional service sectors - are thriving

Ninja Van is among the top 10 fastest-growing companies in Singapore.
Ninja Van is among the top 10 fastest-growing companies in Singapore.PHOTO: NINJA VAN

Companies that adopt technology to provide an innovative twist to their businesses are thriving, according to a list of the fastest growing companies in Singapore compiled by The Straits Times and global research firm Statista.

The 10 fastest growing firms include one in car sales and another in precious metal recycling, which are traditional service sectors, although what sets them apart is their use of technology to elevate their offerings. Firms are ranked by their compound annual growth rate.

Firms had to meet certain criteria to be considered for the list, such as having generated revenue of at least $150,000 in 2016 and at least $1.5 million in 2019.

The study conducted last year compiled a league table of 75 local companies that achieved high revenue growth between 2016 and 2019. Now in its third year, the study was first done in 2018.

Technology-driven automotive marketplace Carro sped to the top of the ranking, with a compound annual growth rate of 422 per cent.

Founded in 2015, the firm provides a proprietary pricing algorithm to sell second-hand cars while also offering a full suite of services such as in-house financing and a car care workshop.

Other companies on the list include online shopping solutions provider SCI Ecommerce, technology-enabled logistics firms Roadbull Logistics and Ninja Van, digital payment solutions provider Coda Payments and precious metals recycler BR Metals.

German-based Statista's senior associate partner Thomas Clark, who is responsible for corporate development and international affairs, said: "I believe that hybrid companies will fare best in the future - companies that find a creative twist to do business in a traditional industry, such as transport, leisure or finance, and that are not afraid to apply or acquire top-notch technology to execute their idea."

He said that while this ranking does not yet take into consideration the coronavirus pandemic's impact, it shows that firms continue to grow despite challenges.

"This ranking provides a plethora of passionate and positive business stories at a time when we are mostly being bombarded by gloomy news," he said.

"I have no doubt that many of them will weather the storm of a global epidemic extremely well and will continue to remain a beacon of business hope."

Moving forward, firms have to be fast and flexible to succeed, while keeping a positive mindset, he said.

"Once you have such DNA in a company, new ideas to reach customers and clients will come - and can be executed even in the environment of an epidemic."

While technology like artificial intelligence is important, people have to look past the headlines and trends to get to the core of what works as a business, he added.

Indeed, automation and chatbots have helped tech-driven logistics provider Ninja Van to grow, keeping up with demand during the pandemic - and safely.

It came in fourth in the ranking, with a compound annual growth rate of 205 per cent.

It recently launched a chat system so that customers can opt for contactless delivery and get notifications when their parcel arrives.

Ninja Van Singapore country head Ray Chou said such innovations have helped it to keep up when parcel volume increased three times during the pandemic.

"As a tech-enabled company with automated systems and processes such as our conveyor belts, we are able to function optimally without scaling up on temporary manpower just to cater to the volume increment," he said, adding that ensuring customer satisfaction at each step of the process is vital for the business to grow.

Coda Payments chief executive Philippe Limes agreed that people come first. The firm offers businesses alternative ways to collect payment for online transactions from customers who do not have credit or debit cards. It recorded a compound annual growth rate of 162 per cent and came in eighth.

"Most of our big steps forward have come from listening closely to our clients' needs, having a hyperlocal approach, and investing in our team and culture," he said.

Associate Professor Lawrence Loh from the National University of Singapore Business School said the pandemic will drive an even greater divide between firms that use tech and those that do not, as the economy and markets evolve to be more digitally oriented.

"Fundamentally, firms must be even more needs-driven and customer-centric. To navigate the market for the future, they must persevere in transforming their businesses and pivoting to others when necessary."

Top 10

1. CARRO

Carro is South-east Asia's largest online automotive marketplace for pre-owned cars, and offers a full-stack service for all aspects of car ownership. It uses innovation and technology to provide consumers with a seamless experience, which includes in-house financing solutions and after-sale services like a car care workshop.

Compound annual growth rate: 422.4 per cent.

2. SCI ECOMMERCE

The firm provides end-to-end e-commerce solutions for brands in South-east Asia and China. These range from setting up and managing retail stores on online marketplaces to digital marketing. Its partners include Shopee, Lazada and Tokopedia.

Compound annual growth rate: 323.2 per cent.

3. 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 to trace parcels at every step of the way.

Compound annual growth rate: 243.7 per cent.

4. NINJA VAN

Ninja Van is a leading courier company in Singapore and South-east Asia, using technology to provide a hassle-free experience for businesses and consumers in delivering and receiving parcels.

Compound annual growth rate: 205 per cent.

5. BLUE WIRELESS

A new-generation wireless network service provider, Blue Wireless enables flexible wireless network access for branches, remote sites and the maritime sector in over 60 countries. It also supports the Internet of Things implementation using the latest LTE/5G technology.

Compound annual growth rate: 191.1 per cent.

6. REDDOORZ

This is a technology-driven hotel management and booking company offering affordable accommodation. It has operations in Indonesia, Singapore, the Philippines and Vietnam.

Compound annual growth rate: 186.9 per cent.

7. BR METALS

The company recovers precious metals from catalytic converters for recycling. It aims to provide a viable alternative to deep-earth mining, which causes environmental damage.

Compound annual growth rate: 178.9 per cent.

8. CODA PAYMENTS

Coda Payments helps digital content providers accept payments in more than 20 countries, with a range of payment channels catering to different consumers, even those without a credit or debit card.

Compound annual growth rate: 162 per cent.

9. THE FUTURE OF COOKING

This retailer of high-end kitchen appliances is the partner of German firm Vorwerk International, which sells household products globally.

Compound annual growth rate: 151.4 per cent.

10. WAVE LIFE SCIENCES

This biotechnology company focuses on transformational therapies like nucleic acid therapeutics for serious, genetically defined diseases such as Huntington's disease.

Compound annual growth rate: 144.6 per cent.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 19, 2021, with the headline 'Tech-enabled firms among fastest growing in S'pore'. Subscribe