SPH to set up its first overseas technology office in Chongqing

Singapore Press Holdings has signed a memorandum of understanding to establish a Digital Innovation Centre in the Liangjiang New Area.
Singapore Press Holdings has signed a memorandum of understanding to establish a Digital Innovation Centre in the Liangjiang New Area.PHOTO: ST FILE

Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) will set up its first overseas technology office in Chongqing, the media group's latest move to extend its technology capabilities and become a more digital-focused company.

The listed company has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to establish a Digital Innovation Centre in the Liangjiang New Area, a burgeoning tech and innovation hub in the municipality.

The MOU is one of nearly 30 agreements inked yesterday across sectors that include aviation, financial services and logistics.

The centre's initial objective is to expand the mainland audience of its Chinese Media Group content, like Lianhe Zaobao's website, through better localisation, said SPH's chief technology officer Glen Francis.

Zaobao is among the most well-read foreign news websites in China, with five million unique visitors a month. Its growth prospects remain strong in a market of 1.4 billion people. Mr Francis said: "We want to apply tech like artificial intelligence and machine learning so that our apps are hyper-localised to the way the Chinese consume media."

The growing trend of young Chinese graduates eschewing first-tier cities for jobs closer to home - while tech giants expand west to lower their costs - also bodes well for Chongqing's tech environment and talent acquisition, he added.

Alibaba's cloud unit launched a new centre in Liangjiang in June, while rival Tencent's new south-west headquarters, also in the same place, will be ready later this year.

 
 
 

"With these big companies going into Chongqing, it is seeing an inflow of tech talent, bringing home with them the knowledge gained in the bigger eastern cities," Mr Francis said.

In the longer term, other SPH apps and websites may also be coded in the Chongqing office, which could also take on external projects, said vice-president of IT, subsidiaries and special projects Toh Hong Giep.

The centre will also be a foothold for further expansion into and beyond China, Mr Toh added.

"Chongqing is a strategic bridgehead for us: It sits on a key location in the Belt and Road Initiative, and also offers us potential opportunities into Eastern Europe," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 12, 2019, with the headline 'SPH to set up its first overseas technology office in Chongqing'. Print Edition | Subscribe