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Singapore's fastest-growing companies: Tech firms in the lead

Industry watchers say this is in line with how digital transformation will continue to change the global business landscape and upend the status quo for enterprises both big and small. PHOTO: ISTOCK
Industry watchers say this is in line with how digital transformation will continue to change the global business landscape and upend the status quo for enterprises both big and small. PHOTO: ISTOCK

A look at why IT-enabled firms, in particular, are dominating Singapore’s Fastest Growing Companies list

Online statistics, market research and business intelligence portal Statista, in collaboration with The Straits Times, has drawn up a list of the fastest growing Singapore-based companies between 2014 and 2017.

Out of the 85 that made the cut, 18 were technology-related.Industry watchers say this is in line with how digital transformation will continue to change the global business landscape and upend the status quo for enterprises both big and small.

Much of the sea change, they add, stems from the significant advances in Cloud technology over the past decade.

Info on demand

In its simplest terms, Cloud technology refers to the storing and access of data and information via the Internet — instead of a computer hard drive or company server — to be retrieved on demand. 

Mr Pierre Legrand, leader at PwC South East Asia Technology Consulting, says its advent has led to significant increase in IT capabilities in the areas of maintenance, scalability, reliability and security starting with the big infrastructure players such as Microsoft, Google and Amazon.

Mr Legrand explains: “These companies first built the capabilities for themselves, but soon realised that the same IT platforms could be offered to the broader market since few enterprises are able to match their level of investments in areas such as software, hardware, computing and data storage space.

“Furthermore, they can be scaled up even further via tie-ups with multiple smaller partners to create whole new ecosystems. With Cloud, entry barriers become much lower for the second layer of players — fintech and other industry disruptors — who can now offer services they couldn’t before.” 

The power of ecosystems

For their clients, this is good news; there is a lesser need to build or overhaul mega projects internally since the IT integration process has become more efficient from cost control and delivery perspectives. 

Most appealingly, there are no longer issues with outdated legacy IT infrastructures and processes to deal with.

 

“What this means is not only are businesses able to shift resources away from low-value, repetitive and rote activities and re-direct their IT energies around customer and business outcomes, they can also work with external parties to co-create,” says Mr Mohit Mehrotra, strategy consulting co-leader at Deloitte Asia Pacific.

This gives rise to dynamic, constantly evolving ecosystems that typically bring together diverse players of different sizes to collectively learn, adapt, innovate and scale up to serve markets in ways beyond the capacity of any single organisation or traditional industry, Mr Mehrotra adds. 

Meanwhile, Mr Jonathan Rees, Asean digital leader at Ernst & Young Advisory, points out that the Cloud landscape has also enabled companies to embrace the power and knowledge of ecosystems never seen before.
Mr Rees says: “New collaboration platforms are allowing companies to unleash the potential of their entire employee and customer networks.  

“We are also seeing businesses looking at non-traditional partnership models such as ride-
sharing, banking and insurance to fuel customer acquisition and the ability to cross sell to a common customer base.”

Disruption: the new norm

And so, with IT structure costs reduced, the impact and fear of failure among companies is significantly lowered, allowing new players to disrupt the status quo and more established ones to experiment with new collaborative ways to deliver their services more effectively to the market. 

  • Making the cut

    Singapore’s Fastest Growing Companies is a list of 85 local firms that achieved markedly high revenue growth between 2014 and 2017.

    Companies keen to get on the league table had to register via websites created by Statista and The Straits Times from July to October last year.

    There were strict criteria – they had to be independent firms headquartered in Singapore with revenue generated of at least $150,000 in 2014 and $1.5 million in 2017.Statista also examined the officially stated revenue data of more than 570 public companies here after the application phase. 

    All which met the criteria were added to the list. The submitted revenue had to be verified by the chief financial officer, chief executive officer or a member of the executive committee.

    The calculation of growth rates was based on the revenue figures submitted by the companies in the respective national currencies. These figures were then converted into Singapore dollars for comparison.

    The result is a list of companies ranked by compound annual growth rate, which is calculated by taking into account revenue growth over the three-year period.

Explains Mr BidyutDumra, head of innovation, technology and operations at Development Bank of Singapore (DBS): “We are no longer just competing with traditional peers, but new entrants to the industry. 

“The accessibility of new technologies has levelled the playing field for start-ups and fintechs, now that the barrier to entry is signifcantly reduced. Big platform players with large customer bases, such as Alibaba, are also looking to financial services as an extension of the business. 

“We started our digital transformation journey almost 10 years ago to bring in new technologies such as cloud computing, machine learning and data analytics to build new customer-centric products and services.”

With the launch of its application programming interface platform in 2017, DBS can now work with other brands, corporates, fintechs and software developers to accelerate its digital roadmap.

“We also launched Startup Xchange last year to harness the power of emerging technologies by co-opting start-ups that to customise innovative solutions for our customers and employees. We have since rolled out 10 emerging technology solutions to solve business pain-points for internal teams and the bank’s small and medium-sized enterprise clients,” says Mr Dumra. 

What lies ahead

Mr Legrand anticipates the mushrooming of more customer-centric and employee-centric services, along with business-to-business (B2B) engagement in the evolving business-IT landscape.

“We can expect more predictive capabilities that will see prices set according to end-users’ behaviour and usage patterns. There will be less of a cookie-cutter approach, like how car insurance is charged depending on your daily travel. Artificial intelligence and machine learning will eventually replace manual and process-driven functions in the workplace,” says Mr Legrand, who adds that there will be less dependence on devices such as keyboards and computer mouses with a shift towards more voice-activated functions.

Meanwhile, Mr Ken Pereira, chief executive officer of security firm Oneberry Technologies, expects an increasing use of robotics and automation in countries including Singapore — where the workforce is ageing — to reduce the reliance on manpower.

“We already have client requests for facial recognition to authenticate identities or access control, and we are working on rolling out these solutions with our partners,” he says.