Japanese tech firms using S’pore as gateway to growing S-E Asia market

A worker capturing photos of a construction site using SpiderPlus and Co's field management app. PHOTO: SPIDERPLUS AND CO

SINGAPORE - Workers in the construction industry used to mark physical diagrams with coloured pencils while planning their work, but they now have the option of tracking their progress on a tablet electronically.

Japanese construction tech firm SpiderPlus and Co has created a subscription-based field management app to digitise construction job-site work.

The app allows contractors to monitor job sites in real-time using a 360-degree camera photo function, which allows developers to inspect work progress.

This significantly reduces the number of site visits.

The data from the worksite is shared directly with the office to facilitate faster work feedback and coordination. The app also helps manage checklists, tasks and work schedules of multiple contractors and projects. Its functions have reduced the work time of workers by more than 25 hours per user each month.

The company, which was founded in 2000, entered Singapore through its South-east Asia expansion in July 2021. Its app now services about 1,330 corporate clients.

Mr Lionel Lim, vice-president and head for Japan and Korea at the Economic Development Board (EDB), said Singapore is an ideal gateway for Japanese tech firms seeking to tap the growing South-east Asia market.

South-east Asia is now the fifth-largest economy in the world and is on track to become the fourth-largest by 2030, he added.

Foreign direct investment into Singapore from Japan has risen from about $115 billion to around $139 billion from 2018 to 2020, according to data from Singapore Department of Statistics.

“Digital technologies will continue to be critical enablers for many businesses and the outlook for digitalisation and digital consumption across the region is positive,” said Mr Lim.

These technologies include enterprise software as a service (SaaS) and cloud services for remote work, fintech and payments solutions for cross-border online consumption, and e-commerce and food delivery.

Cybozu, a teamwork software provider, produced Kintone, a customisable digital workplace platform that allows workers to manage data, tasks and communication in one central place. It is currently doing business in Singapore via its local sales partners.

Mr Tsubasa Nakazawa, president of Kintone South-east Asia, Cybozu’s first regional subsidiary in the region, said: “One caveat is that a majority of our clients are Japanese companies, so an important objective for us now is to develop our local client base for expansions.

“To effectively enter the local market, we recognised that we need to be able to quickly identify local needs, and have local staff and sales partners to support our expansion. This thinking led us to establish offices in Thailand and Malaysia.”

As at June 2022, Cybozu has over 1,000 client companies using Kintone.

SpiderPlus and Co’s chief executive officer, Mr Kenji Ito, said: “Singapore’s mature economic and legal environment is appealing to us. Singapore is also an ideal regional hub for foreign companies looking to expand their presence into countries in South-east Asia.”

Japanese companies have been leveraging Singapore’s diverse mix of industries to identify new needs that their applications and solutions can cater to, said EDB’s Mr Lim.

“Our strong supplier ecosystem, including contract manufacturers and electronic manufacturing services players, thriving research and innovation ecosystem and established networks with the rest of South-east Asia also make Singapore a competitive location for Japanese firms,” he added.

“Japanese start-ups are entering Singapore to benefit from its status as a regional hub for funding and talent, its pro-business environment, strong protection of intellectual property and geographical location within South-east Asia.”

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