More SMEs band together to win regional e-commerce projects: IE Singapore

By Vivien Shiao

SINGAPORE - Three small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) - Shopmatic, Red Dot Payment, and iCommerce Asia - have joined forces to land their first $100,000 e-commerce deal in South-east Asia.

The move is part of a push by government agency International Enterprise (IE) Singapore to bring together different SMEs with complementary solutions to secure contracts across the region.

The partnership combines the different strengths of the three firms - Shopmatic's e-commerce platform expertise, Red Dot Payment's digital payment solutions and iCommerce Asia's logistics and supply chain management solutions.

The new partnership allows companies to overcome their individual capability gaps and tap on more resources to devise a comprehensive solution that would not have been possible on their own. This enables e-commerce companies to gain an advantage and capture opportunities in a competitive market.

IE Singapore is wants more firms with e-commerce solutions to form different groupings to respond to the fast-changing landscape and to bag opportunities in the region.

A Euromonitor International report found that the region's e-commerce market is growing at 17 per cent a year and projected to be valued at $120 billion by 2025.

More projects are on the way. Shopmatic and retail management solutions firm Octopus Retail Management are in talks to develop an integrated online-to-offline (O2O) e-commerce solution targeting O2O retailers in India.

Mr Kurt Wee, president of the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises, said the focus on e-commerce makes sense as it's "an easier fruit to pluck".

"As these companies are more web-based, it might be easier to penetrate overseas markets than a traditional enterprise," he added.

Mr Wee believes that such collaborations will be the way to go, as Singaporean players need scale to go international. But more can still be done for these partnerships to take place, he added.

"At the SME level, we do have SMEs that go into project collaborations. But (in terms of partnerships) between GLCs (government-linked corporations) and SMEs, we have a lot more headroom to grow," Mr Wee noted.

Other than collaborations, Mr Wee pointed out that SMEs here need a concerted effort to build on established Singaporean ecosystems in foreign markets.

That way, new SMEs are able to plug into the local market at a quicker pace, make fewer mistakes, minimise their risk, and enhance their chances of success, he said.

IE Singapore is organising a series of roundtables this month to understand challenges SMEs face for regional e-commerce projects.

Business missions to India, Indonesia, Korea, Latin America and Vietnam will also take place next year to help Singapore firms deepen their understanding of the local e-commerce landscapes and develop complementary capabilities.

Mr Lee Yee Fung, group director, lifestyle business group at IE Singapore said: "The e-commerce landscape today is highly competitive, where the concept of 'platform business models' is increasingly common.

"Singapore companies need to adopt new business models to compete effectively."

More SMEs are now looking at partnerships as a way to expand.

Surbana Jurong and two SMEs - hardware company iFocus and data visualisation company S3 Innovate - announced last week that they had clinched their first lift monitoring project in Guangzhou City, a deal facilitated by IE Singapore.