Help for S'pore businesses to break into Chinese market

CapitaMall Minzhongleyuan (above) in Wuhan, China, is CapitaLand's first shopping mall to house a co-working space. Operated by UrWork, the facility sprawls over 4,100 sq m and will open in phases from next month. It will be followed by a 1,300 sq m
CapitaMall Minzhongleyuan (above) in Wuhan, China, is CapitaLand's first shopping mall to house a co-working space. Operated by UrWork, the facility sprawls over 4,100 sq m and will open in phases from next month. It will be followed by a 1,300 sq m space in CapitaMall Wangjing, Beijing, next year.PHOTO: CAPITALAND

First-time businessmen and entrepreneurs to China will now have a much easier time setting up shop there. A tie-up between property giant CapitaLand, trade agency International Enterprise Singapore and top Chinese co-working firm UrWork will give Singapore businesses discounted space in some of UrWork's co-working sites in China.

They will also get access to networks of Chinese entrepreneurs, investors and professional services such as recruitment, legal and tax.

The partnership marks the first time that the property giant CapitaLand is launching co-working spaces in its malls.

The first is a 4,100 sq m space in CapitaMall Minzhongleyuan, Wuhan, which will open in phases from next month, followed by a 1,300 sq m space in CapitaMall Wangjing, Beijing, in the first half of next year.

Mr Lim Ming Yan, president and group chief executive of CapitaLand, said the cities were chosen as space was available in those malls, but also because of the vibrant start-up culture in the two cities.

Co-working spaces in malls could also come to Singapore, he added, and will be an option for the new Funan mall, originally known as the Funan DigitaLife Mall.

UrWork chief executive Mao Daqing emphasised that UrWork's most valuable proposition to Singapore entrepreneurs would be access to the company's networks .

Singapore entrepreneurs can meet their peers, as UrWork currently houses about 1,000 companies, he said, including 12 start-ups with more than 20 million users.

Its shared services platform will also give firms access to business advisory services, which now include those provided by law firm Rajah and Tann and United Overseas Bank.

Drawing on its backers, which include venture capital funds like Sequioa and Zhen Fund, he said that the company was "70 per cent co-working space, 30 per cent accelerator", and will provide mentoring and links with investors.

It operates 36 co-working spaces across 11 Chinese cities, including Beijing and Shanghai, and will open another four by year-end, he said.

Ms Linda Dai, director of Beijing-based Highlight Style, said the firm, with about 200 staff, already has its own offices but decided to take up four desks at UrWork in Beijing to get access to the network.

She said that meeting other entrepreneurs created opportunities to cooperate for her company, which brings in lifestyle products from international designers.

Singapore start-up Popper Asia creates pop-up stores out of shipping containers, and has just started operations in Shanghai.

Founder Kelvin Ng said he would consider renting one of the UrWork spaces in a second or third-tier city in China. "In China, it's still a lot about networking, and you meet people in co-working spaces."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 03, 2016, with the headline 'Help for S'pore businesses to break into Chinese market'. Print Edition | Subscribe