The right global fit for local firms

Budget 2017 was a clarion call for local companies to go forth and conquer overseas markets.

New measures aimed at developing companies' capabilities, so they are better able to grow abroad, include the International Partnership Fund. This will see the Government pledging up to $600 million to the fund to co-invest with Singapore companies to help them scale up globally.

For years, local companies have been urged to go global to boost revenue sources and exploit business opportunities Singapore may not offer.

Many companies - from curry puff chain Old Chang Kee to logistics firm YCH Group - heeded the call and found success.

Venturing overseas is a major undertaking, particularly for smaller companies which have limited resources, but it is a journey they should embark on sooner rather than later.

And they need not look far: Asean - including neighbouring Malaysia - is a possible destination.

Amid rising competition, a weaker growth outlook, the rise of disruptive technology and, some say, shorter economic and business cycles, internationalisation will become a key engine of growth for companies. Having a presence abroad can help them diversify risks, gain new revenue streams and tap a much broader customer base which will potentially boost growth prospects.

Trade agency IE Singapore surveyed about 700 local companies last year and found that their overseas revenue grew by 4.2 per cent year on year in 2015, outpacing the total revenue growth of 1.3 per cent.

Global players can also use capital raised in other markets for further expansion and look to forge alliances around the world. They could also gain from cheaper labour and rental costs elsewhere.

On the manpower front, internationalisation not only enables companies to tap a wider talent pool, but also offers career pathways to Singaporeans taking leadership roles abroad.

As industries are transformed, the question companies should ask is not if they should go abroad, but which overseas markets are right for them.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 22, 2017, with the headline 'The right global fit for local firms'. Print Edition | Subscribe