S'pore must help home-grown firms develop into successful global outfits: Chan Chun Sing

(From left) Minister for Manpower Minister Josephine Teo, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing and IMDA Digital Industry & Talent Assistant Chief Executive Kiren Kumar during their visit to Sea and Shopee building on Nov 24, 2020. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE - Singapore must develop the next generation of home-grown companies that will boost the local economy while competing in the global arena.

An industry that could provide fertile soil for such growth is the infocomm media (ICM) sector, said Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing on Tuesday (Nov 24).

He added that this would entail creating and turning more home-grown firms - including small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) - into successful global outfits. This would benefit Singaporeans in the form of good jobs and better wages.

Mr Chan, who was speaking after a visit to home-grown e-commerce platform Shopee in Science Park Drive, said that Singapore should not be satisfied merely with attracting investments here.

"We have to help our companies to grow so that they can compete on an international stage," he said.

He added that support will be given to those with growth potential to expand.

Mr Chan cited Singapore-based technology firm Sea, Shopee's parent company, as an example of an outfit with a strong global footprint.

Singapore's pro-business environment has created the right macro-conditions for local firms to thrive and for businesses to use it as a base to serve the region, said Mr Chan, adding that the country should build on its strengths.

This business ecosystem is possible due to existing factors such as a robust intellectual property protection regime, access to skilled workforce, strong rule of law and stable governance, he noted.

These are fundamentals that have put Singapore in good stead and "we have every reason to believe that they will continue to serve us well", said Mr Chan.

Besides the Sea group, home-grown companies such as gaming chair maker Secretlab and cyber security firm V-Key have seen tremendous growth and are part of this new generation that can offer global markets with new products and solutions. Currently, seven of the 13 unicorns - start-up companies valued at over US$1 billion - in South-east Asia are from Singapore.

Locally, the presence of vibrant home-grown firms across multiple industries will also help SMEs to grow.

Mr Chan shared that larger firms can work with smaller ones, helping them to reach new markets beyond Singapore.

The Shopee University initiative, for instance, helps sellers and SMEs to adapt their products to the digital platform and grow their online businesses. The firm also intends to launch an initiative in the first half of next year to help online-ready businesses here expand their cross-border reach into Malaysia - a good starting point for firms looking to take their first steps overseas.

The ICM sector, a key engine of growth in Singapore, contributed about 8 per cent of the country's gross value added and $40.7 billion in nominal value added to the economy last year.

Demand for more advanced tech, such as automation and artificial intelligence, will continue to rise in the short to medium term. Online and digital services too are likely to remain strong revenue drivers as more industries shift to digital and cloud-based operations.

Mr Chan stressed that Singapore is well-positioned to build on the ICM sector, which plays the role of a growth multiplier for other industries.

"Now we are in the cusp of having to grow another new generation of technology companies that has the world as its market," he added.

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