Competition is an act of self-interest, but cooperation might well represent the longer runway of enlightened self-interest. The spirit of the latter attitude is apparent in the decision by a group of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to work together for mutual benefit instead of competing over the same turf. They are part of an Enterprise Singapore initiative which is bringing SMEs together to succeed collectively in targeted projects. Collaboration allows for the sharing of ideas, reduces the cost of expensive, problem-solving, new technology, produces greater economies of scale and contributes to collaborators gaining competitive advantage over others. Collaboration allows SMEs to thrive locally and grow globally.
That is an urgent challenge as SMEs find themselves buffeted by US-China trade tensions, which have affected export competitiveness and reduced overseas sales for many. According to a report that cites these reasons, other causes for concern are high manpower costs, increased domestic competition, difficulty in hiring and retaining staff, and cash-flow problems. Another survey found that battling competitors was a major challenge for most smaller firms. It found that 74 per cent of respondents saw industry competition as a significant issue, while 40 per cent pointed to manpower shortages. Competition is natural to market economics, but its intensification in a small city-state without a hinterland has to be kept within the bounds of survival.