SBF partners UOB, Keppel Land in push to help Singapore businesses venture abroad

Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing (centre) at the signing ceremony. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - Despite a crippling global recession last year, the Singapore Business Federation (SBF) managed to facilitate 15 Singapore-based small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to set up shop abroad and plans to double that number this year.

The Federation on Friday (Feb 19) signed up UOB and Keppel Land as strategic partners to further speed up internationalisation of local SMEs.

Since its launch in November 2019, GlobalConnect  @   SBF has assisted more than 2,500 Singapore businesses and last year enabled their overseas ventures in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, USA and Turkey.

Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing witnessed the signing ceremony and met several of the business owners and their teams that successfully ventured overseas with SBF's assistance.

UOB will act as the GlobalConnect  @   SBF's financial partner, while Keppel Land will assist Singapore investors locate their business in its serviced co-offices located in Singapore and other Asean countries.

Mr Darius Lim, assistant chief executive officer, Global Business, at SBF said the federation also provided more than 900 specific market advisories to local SMEs.

"It's just the first year, and we intend to scale this up quite rapidly," said Mr Lim. "We expect to see this number easily double in the second year."

GlobalConnect @  SBF was set up by SBF in partnership with Enterprise Singapore to support companies on their expansion plans. Its focus is on Asean, frontier and emerging markets, FTA (free trade agreement) education and outreach, and markets along the Belt and Road.

SBF is working with another 11 strategic partners to expand the range and depth of expertise available to Singapore SMEs for their overseas expansion, it said in a statement.

It has also established two Singapore Enterprise Centres (SECs) - one in Jakarta and one in Ho Chi Minh City. The SEC @  Jakarta and SEC  @  Ho Chi Minh City are staffed by SBF's local market advisors with in-depth knowledge about their respective markets.

Mr Tan Soon Kim, assistant chief executive officer of Enterprise Singapore said: "From gathering market information, to identifying business leads and navigating the evolving business environment in this region, GlobalConnect  @  SBF can support enterprises to secure partnerships and opportunities in Southeast Asia."

Minister Chan said the GlobalConnect @ SBF initiative and the Singapore Enterprise Centres will give local companies, especially the smaller ones, a platform to reach into bigger markets using the established resources of both SBF, Enterprise Singapore, trade associations and chambers of commerce.

"It shows how we can come together as a team," he told reporters on Friday.

Mr Chan also pointed out other initiatives aimed at internationalisation of Singapore businesses such as the South-east Asia Manufacturing Alliance set up to help SMEs and suppliers in Singapore gain access to opportunities across the region.

In response to a question from The Straits Times, he said the Government has also enhanced the programmes in the past year to provide funds to local companies overseas ventures.

They include the double tax deduction for internationalisation schemes - under which businesses may claim automatic double tax deduction on qualifying expenses - and the market readiness assistance grant.

SBF had also organised a showcase displaying products of some the companies helped by GlobalConnect.

A spokesperson for Kew Organics told reporters that the organic skincare company has identified Vietnam, Indonesia and the Middle East as markets of interest before getting in touch with GlobalConnect @ SBF.

GlobalConnect's market advisers provide them information and studies relating to consumer patterns, disposable income, potential cities for business development and effective distribution channels.

A distributor in Hanoi, introduced to them by the GlobalConnect team, helped them organise marketing events and got their products placed in a retail space with an identical brand concept.

Mr Lim of SBF said: "What makes GlobalConnect very different from almost any other programme that exists today is that the success of the programme is tied to the commercial success of our Singapore companies. It's not just about business matching or bringing the company to the market."

GlobalConnect also collaborated with the Singapore Food Manufacturing Association (SFMA) to embark on a pilot market entry initiative that so far has helped 12 Singapore food manufacturers successfully place their 52 local food products in the Vietnamese market.

The partnership between SBF and UOB will grant local businesses access to UOB's Foreign Direct Investment Advisory Unit's network of 10 FDI (foreign direct investment) centres, providing them with better trade and investment opportunities.

Those partnering Keppel Land will get access to instant landing points through Kloud serviced co-working spaces overseas.

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